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CA's work plan for making available additional radio spectrum to meet demand of public mobile services towards 2020 and beyond

The following is issued on behalf of the Communications Authority:

  The Communications Authority (CA) today (March 21) announced its work plan for making available additional spectrum for public mobile services to meet the increasing aspirations of service users towards 2020 and beyond.

  Thanks to the sustained growth of third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) mobile services, Hong Kong's telecommunications market has continued to flourish, with the number of mobile subscribers exceeding 17 million, representing a penetration rate of over 230 per cent, much to the envy of many economies around the world. Mobile data services are available at download speed of 450 megabits per second. The increasing popularity of 4G services has boosted mobile data usage, with the monthly average surging to 22,055 terabytes in 2016. There is continued demand from the industry for more spectrum. And yet, all the 552 MHz of spectrum which is available in the sub-3GHz frequency bands and subject to competing demands has been assigned for the provision of mobile services.

  In tandem, the fifth generation (5G) mobile services will be commercially launched in around 2020. As 5G services will support very high-speed communication, with application in intelligent transport systems, the Internet of Things and more on top of further enhancing mobile broadband services, it calls for multiple gigahertz of new spectrum in the frequency range of 24.25 - 86 GHz as proposed by the International Telecommunication Union, which will convene the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019 with a view to deciding on the global allocation of 5G spectrum within this frequency range.

  In face of the incessant demand for spectrum for the provision of 3G and 4G services, and to better prepare Hong Kong for the launch of 5G services in around 2020, the CA is actively exploring ways to make available additional spectrum, through relocating other spectrum assignments, thereby clearing suitable frequency bands, including candidate bands for 5G services, for re-allocation to mobile services.

  In this regard, the CA will launch a public consultation in the second half of 2017 on the vacation of the 3.4 - 3.7 GHz band (currently assigned for fixed satellite service provision), with a view to re-allocating it to mobile services in 2020. As the potential use of the 3.5 GHz band (3.4 - 3.6 GHz) for public mobile services might affect existing fixed satellite service users, including hundreds of thousands of households receiving satellite television services, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) will engage a technical consultant to advise on the feasible mitigation measures to enable the co-existence of fixed satellite service and mobile service within the frequency band of 3.4 - 4.2 GHz.

  Turning to 5G services, amidst the candidate bands in the frequency range of 24.25 - 86 GHz, the 26 GHz band (24.25 - 27.5 GHz) is the lowest band that is being considered by some major economies including European countries and the Mainland for 5G deployment. On the other hand, other economies such as the United States and Korea have opened up the adjacent 28 GHz band (27.5 - 28.35 GHz) for their 5G trials.

  In view of these developments, the CA plans to make available spectrum in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands, with a contiguous bandwidth of 4.1 gigahertz altogether, as the first batch of spectrum for the provision of 5G services in Hong Kong.

  While the 28 GHz band is currently vacant, part of the 26 GHz band is assigned for fixed links in Hong Kong. The CA intends to notify in the first half of 2017 spectrum assignees in the 26 GHz band on band vacation by mid-2019, and would co-ordinate with them on the relocation of their current operation to other frequency bands. The CA will invite industry players to express their interest in using the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands for public mobile services before end-2017 in order to gauge the local industry demand for the provision of 5G services with these frequency bands.

  "Subject to the interest expressed by the industry and the availability of internationally/regionally harmonised band plans, the CA will strive to assign spectrum in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands for the provision of 5G services in 2019 at the earliest," a spokesman for the CA said.

  "The CA will continue to look for suitable spectrum for releasing to the market in a timely manner to support the continued developments of the mobile industry. The CA will consider and decide on the most suitable arrangements in releasing the spectrum to the market," the spokesman added.

  Meanwhile, the CA notes that the Government will review in 2017-18 its working target of switching off the analogue terrestrial television service (ASO) by 2020, with a view to making available the available spectrum in the 700 MHz band (698 - 806 MHz) for the provision of mobile services, viz the digital dividend. The CA intends to assign the spectrum concerned for mobile services as soon as possible post-ASO, following frequency co-ordination with the Mainland to avoid mutual interference. OFCA will continue to liaise closely with the Mainland authority as regards the plans and timetable of ASO on both sides with a view to realising the digital dividend in Hong Kong at the first opportunity post-ASO.

  "In tandem, OFCA stands ready to facilitate initiatives by interested parties, be they telecommunications service licensees or otherwise, to better prepare Hong Kong for the launch of 5G services. In this regard, OFCA has recently issued a number of permits to facilitate trials on 5G technology and the Internet of Things in Hong Kong. Any parties interested in conducting 5G trials are welcome to approach OFCA for inter-alia the necessary temporary assignment of radio spectrum," the spokesman said.

Ends/Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:03