The converged telecommunications space is an exceptionally competitive arena, and probably nowhere more so than in the Hong Kong market.
In May 2014, Hong Kong's HKT (a subsidiary of PCCW) reacquired CSL -- after it was sold in 2002 -- from Telstra and New World Development (owner of New World Telecom). As a result of the acquisition, HKT regained its position as Hong Kong's largest mobile service provider, with more than 30% market share (excluding MVNOs on its network). It is also the provider with the most spectrum resources in Hong Kong, covering the 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz bands.
Following the acquisition, HKT needed to consolidate the networks of the two companies to realize synergies and meet the conditions of Hong Kong's Communications Authority. To achieve its opex reduction, HKT needed to rapidly eliminate duplicated cell sites. At the same time, it needed to maximize the use of spectrum to strengthen mobile broadband services and increase quality of service for the consolidated subscriber base.
HKT conducted an exhaustive study on how to achieve the objectives of the network integration plan, but it also realized that it needed an evolution plan to elevate the user experience to support a new, unified brand. This user experience would be based on a network that delivered the highest data speeds, coverage and quality by making the best use of the available spectrum.
HKT decided to partner with Huawei as the single vendor for the supply of a future unified network, as well as project implementation of the integration of the HKT and CSL networks.
As part of this integration project, Huawei supplied a unified 2G/3G/4G network together with a unified O&M platform, to enable the smooth transition during removal of duplicate sites. To ensure network performance, multi-operator core network (MOCN) radio-sharing technologies were employed extensively in the network. Since Huawei has delivered more than 80% of global network sharing projects, it was in an excellent position to support HKT on the planning and implementation of network integration, while maintaining the network performance during this transition.
In December 2014, while also aggressively driving the network consolidation, Huawei worked with HKT to implement new technologies, including the launch of Hong Kong's first 300Mbit/s LTE-A carrier aggregation network. The solution aggregates two 20MHz FDD channels in the 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands, to carry LTE services and enable users to watch high-definition videos anywhere, at any time. Shortly afterwards, in April 2015, Huawei and HKT deployed the world-first IP RAN-based inter-site carrier aggregation solution that combines three 20MHz channels in 1800MHz and 2600MHz, giving a maximum download rate of 440 Mbit/s.
This productive partnership and integrated platform seems set to enable HKT and Huawei to continue to deliver an even faster network, but at the same time to capitalize on HKT's other asset of being the largest WiFi service provider in Hong Kong. With around 15,000 hotspots over the territory, it poses the perfect opportunity to deploy the upcoming LTE-WiFi Aggregation (LWA) technology in the integrated network. This would enable the aggregation of WiFi traffic with LTE, so as to give the same user experience as with LTE-A carrier aggregation.
Network consolidation is a massive challenge for operators that are considering growth via acquisition, particularly at a time of major transformation within the telecom industry. This case study shows that, with the right strategic partner, it's feasible to successfully achieve convergence and optimization of site and network resources, while also positioning the network for future development; and all this as 5G, the Internet of Things, big data and cloud computing loom large on the horizon.
— Steve Bell, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.