The pace of 5G in Asia is picking up, with Hong Kong about to get its first service and Philippines set for a Q2 launch.
Just a few days after SoftBank foreshadowed Japan's first 5G offering, Hutchison Telecom has announced it will introduce 5G to Hong Kong from April 1. (See SoftBank ignites Japan 5G market with March 27 launch.)
It will provide initial coverage in key malls, including in the central business district, as well as the airport and convention center. Customers can buy 100GB packages for HK$388 ($49.95) and 200GB bundles for HK$699.
Hutchison hasn't revealed which handsets it will sell or details of new services, but it promises new business apps and "AR/VR games and low latency video learning."
CEO Kenny Koo said the company would leverage Hutchison affiliates in Europe to create a "cross-boundary and cross-industry" era.
The plunge into 5G has been imminent since operators acquired slices of 3.5GHz, 4.9GHz 3.3GHz spectrum late last year. (See Hong Kong Set for 2020 5G Launch After $128M Auction.)
In the Philippines, PLDT, the parent of mobile player Smart Communications, has flagged up a start to 5G in the second quarter, Philippines Star reports.
But PLDT's chief revenue officer and Smart president, Al Panlilio, wasn't very definitive. "We're starting to roll out some basestations for 5G," he said. "We are plotting to have something that we can bring to the market maybe sometime in the second quarter."
The company had planned a launch of home broadband and enterprise fixed wireless access by the fourth quarter last year, but postponed it to get a better grasp of the new technology.
With a new competitor soon to enter the market, Panlilio acknowledged PLDT's priority was to "fix" the existing network. It will lift capex from PHP72.9 billion ($1.44 billion) in 2019 to 80 billion ($1.58 billion) this year, it announced last week.
Just over four-fifths will be allocated to investing in network and IT "to support the explosive growth in data traffic."
Rival Globe has been offering fixed-wireless 5G since June, delivering 50-100Mbit/s broadband to the home in a handful of districts. It is trialing 5G but hasn't revealed a timetable yet. (See 5G: Game-Changer for Philippines Broadband?)
But the pressure is off the two incumbents somewhat now that newcomer Dito Telecommunity has admitted it won't be ready to start service this year. It says it will take part in "technical audits" by the regulator NTC to show it has met its rollout targets. (See As Dito Preps Its Launch, PLDT & Globe Brace for Impact.)
The operator, owned by Dennis Uy – a friend of President Duterte – and China Telecom, will be ready to offer 4G by next March and 5G later in 2021.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading