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Friday, July 10, 2020, 11:08
Fledgling 5G technology promises to be telecom ‘game-changer’
By Sophie He
Friday, July 10, 2020, 11:08 By Sophie He

Chairman of China Mobile Hong Kong predicts faster speeds will change lives, but adapting the new technology will take time. Sophie He reports from Hong Kong.

China Mobile Hong Kong, one of the major mobile network operators in the city, believes that 5G technology will be a game-changer for all industries and will present the company with unprecedented business opportunities.

Li Feng, chairman of China Mobile Hong Kong, made the remarks to China Daily during a recent interview.

CMHK is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile Ltd, which purchased local telecom operator China Resources Peoples Telephone Co in 2006 and turned it into CMHK.

Since then, CMHK has transformed itself from the smallest telecom operator in the city to a major player, gaining the upper hand in the fierce local competition.

Li said that 2020 is the first year of Hong Kong’s 5G era, and 5G is the single most important development in the industry. CMHK became the first mobile network operator in the city to launch 5G service on April 1.

“You know, all three major mobile operators on the mainland launched their 5G services last year and you can see the speedy development in the past few months. The commercialization of 5G started in Hong Kong this year, and I really think it will be a game-changer,” Li said.

He said that CMHK is committed to building the best 5G network, and the company will spend the next two to three years completing what it calls a “full coverage” 5G network, as there is still much infrastructure work to do, particularly in remote areas.

The user experience of the 5G network is fantastic, since the speed of the 5G network is so fast, particularly for users who like to play mobile games or who enjoy using virtual-reality equipment, Li said. “Aside from the better user experience, 5G will have a meaningful and profound impact on society. 5G is not just about providing a better user experience. We’ve always been saying that 4G will change people’s lives, and 5G will change society,” he said.

Li believes that 5G technology will be integrated into all industries and serve the public. 5G technology will change each and every industry by restructuring the industries’ internal production process, Li said.  The changes will present CMHK with unprecedented opportunities, he said.

Winnie Tang, adjunct professor at the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong, told China Daily that compared with existing mobile networks. “5G is totally different.” 

5G enables nearly instantaneous communication from people to people, people to machines (or things), and things to things (the internet of things). The goals of 5G networks are to ensure latencies of only 1 millisecond, a data transfer rate of up to 10 GB per second, extremely high network reliability (nearly 99.999 percent), and the use of devices in high-speed motion (500 kilometers per hour).

Tang said that building a 5G network is expensive. For a network with improved speed and coverage capabilities, 5G operators require three to 10 times the antennas, base stations and fiber-optic cables to connect them. The energy consumption alone is 10 times more than that of the current setup, according to industry sources.

Li Feng, chairman of China Mobile Hong Kong. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

More opportunities

Moreover, as 5G applications are new to the market, its service fee is expected to be relatively high. Therefore, its popularity will not match that of 4G immediately, Tang said. In other words, 5G likely will repeat the situation with 3G, which was launched in the early 2000s. 3G became popular only when smartphones were introduced later that decade, the professor said.

Echoing the professor’s view, Li said that the commercialization of 5G technology is still in its early stages, and it will take some time before users can fully adopt it, but this has happened with every generation of the network.

“5G will gain in popularity after there is enough terminal equipment. In other words, when there are many kinds of 5G smartphones available, users will adopt 5G technology naturally,” Li said.

Li also said the company will continue to strengthen its business locally as well as in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of China Mobile, CMHK believes that its position gives the company a unique advantage in providing services for users who frequently travel in the Greater Bay Area.

“After the plan of developing the Bay Area was laid out, we cooperated with CTM from Macao and China Mobile Guangdong and launched a Greater Bay Area data plan. I think we can say that the plan has been well received by our users during the past few years,” Li said.

But he said that because of the travel restrictions implemented by the two SAR governments and the Guangdong provincial government during the COVID-19 outbreak, the demand for the Bay Area plan has dropped significantly over the past few months, so CMHK has relocated some of its Bay Area resources back to the local market.

Li acknowledged that the COVID-19 outbreak has significantly changed peoples’ lives and behavior, He is glad to see that Hong Kong people are using more of CMHK’s online services, since CMHK’s Hong Kong users are so used to getting their services from stores, but since the pandemic, an increasing number of its users have started to see that the company’s online services are just as good.

“Providing more services online is very important to us, as there are unlimited space and possibilities. We can add more features and will definitely enhance our users’ experience,” Li said, adding that Chinese mainland users are already used to getting almost all of their services online, and now Hong Kong users are finally getting into the habit.

“This means more business opportunities for us,” Li said.

Contact the writer at sophiehe@chinadailyhk.com

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