PARTNER FEATURE: Steve Ng, Managing Director of HKT Commercial Group, shares with Mobile World Live at MWC 2023 Barcelona how the operator is using 5G capabilities to drive enterprise transformation and government smart city initiatives.

The digital economy and smart city development have been important for a number of years in Hong Kong, with the government launching a blueprint for its Smart City 2.0 initiative a few years back.

Hong Kong’s smart city development plans covers six key areas: smart mobility, smart people, smart living, smart government, smart economy and smart environment.

Last year, the government established a digital economy development committee to detail the measures required to adopt the next-generation technologies needed to accelerate the digital economy in the territory.

Ng mentioned that 5G is a “super enabler for innovation”, and because of the next-generation mobile technology “we have more opportunities to talk to enterprises about how we can use new technologies to help them transform”.

With 5G’s enhanced capabilities – high bandwidth, low latency and the ability to enable massive connectivity – he said HKT can help enterprises do something they weren’t able to do in the past.

Enterprises across Hong Kong are eyeing how HKT can integrate different technologies like 5G, AI and cloud computing to help them transform their operations, Ng noted.

During the pandemic, he pointed to the massive shift to digital services, often supported by 5G networks, which was vital to enabling businesses in many sectors to continue to engage with their customers as well as employees, who were often required to work from home.

“Many enterprises in Hong Kong transformed by using digital technologies, helping them to do business differently.”

Offering solutions instead of just technologies
Looking at its playbook to drive digital transformation, the operator’s key role is to integrate the various technology pieces together to form an end-to-end solution, he stated. “We understand enterprises or customers do not buy technologies. What they buy is a solution.”

In the smart healthcare industry, for example, HKT worked with healthcare organisations to transform how they deliver services.

5G connectivity in hospitals revolutionises the way consultations with doctors are conducted. With this technology, the remote consultation platform can combine and collaborate different 4K video and data sources including the performing surgeon’s smart glasses, endoscope camera and vital sign monitoring etc. With 5G’s super high speed and ultra-low latency, the senior surgeon can timely receive all critical information and remotely perform a consultation, without the need to travel.

“That’s important because hospitals can offer higher quality healthcare service to citizens.”

Another sector it is targeting is the construction industry, which is undergoing a digital transformation of its own, with staff now carrying iPads to access videos, drawings and diagrams when on site.

The problem is construction sites typically don’t have good fibre connectivity. “With 5G, we can help them to get access to all their documents instantly.”

At the same time, a 5G network enables HKT to develop new a range of capabilities, such as AI-enabled surveillance and IoT services, which can help improve worker safety.

The operator is also working on a wide range of smart campus and smart building projects. These require not only 5G connectivity for tenants but also for the physical facilities, allowing a building to be equipped with sensors to detect and regulate temperature, humidity, lighting, appliances and air quality.

AI-based energy saving algorithms can help buildings minimise energy usage.

“There are many different innovations that happen across industries. We will continue to innovate and help different enterprises in different industries on their digital transformation journeys.”

End-to-end digital transformation capabilities
Ng explained HKT is a full-service telecoms operator running both mobile and fibre networks across Hong Kong, and also provides local enterprises with system integration services. “We provide end-to-end services to accelerate enterprise digital transformation – from consulting and solution design, to project implementation and delivery.  Our Enterprise Managed Services also offer multi-skilled supports catering IT operations and end user support requests.”

He said its comprehensive capabilities allow it to put together a fully integrated offering for enterprises when they want to implement digital transformation.

“We have a technical consulting team that goes to customers to understand their requirements and then puts together a solution and integrates the various parts. That is important because there are lots of new technologies that not many of us understand. We can discover the customer problems and deliver a total solution for enterprises.”

He pointed out, however, that as it develops new services for clients it must think about how a system will actually operate on an ongoing basis due to the widening talent shortage, which is not just a problem in Hong Kong but in many parts of the world.

“Without passing the responsibility to customers, we offer integrated Enterprise Managed Services, which can give them the confidence that as they can build an integrated solution, they understand there’s someone helping them to run it. This is the kind of lifecycle management we think is important for enterprises.”

Leveraging a strong partner ecosystem
Ng commented that it is also important for HKT to maintain a strong partner ecosystem to offer such a wide spectrum of solutions for customers. HKT has been working with Huawei for more than 20 years across many technology domains, including fibre networks, 4G and 5G networks, and for enterprise services such as cloud, storage, networking and Wi-Fi.

In the enterprise space, Huawei has been a “strong partner” and at times it worked together to co-create products and services.

For example, he said it worked with the company on a 5G solution integrated with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an IoT connectivity platform. “This is something at the forefront in terms of development in ICT. We are happy to work with Huawei in the future to bring new innovations to the community in other parts of the world.”