HKT, Smartone near 20% 5G mobile take-up

The latest round of earnings results has finally given us a glimpse into the state of 5G in Hong Kong.

Two operators, HKT and Smartone, are reporting that 5G subs now represent around 15%-20% of their customer base.

HKT's 5G subscribers had reached 528,000, or 16% of total postpaid customer base, at end-July. It says it's targeting 20% by year-end.

Scene from above: The latest round of earnings gives a useful overview of the state of Hong Kong's 5G uptake.   (Source: Florian Wehde on Unsplash)
Scene from above: The latest round of earnings gives a useful overview of the state of Hong Kong's 5G uptake.
(Source: Florian Wehde on Unsplash)

Speaking at their first-half result briefing Wednesday, Smartone execs wouldn't reveal the exact number but said it's the "high teens" of their total postpaid customer base of 2.47 million – or somewhere around 400,000 or so.

The other listed telco, Hutchison Telecom, is keeping its subs numbers close to its chest, as is the territory's biggest operator, China Mobile HK, which claims more than 5 million services in use.

But all are reporting some 5G uplift.

Break it down

Smartone says 5G is adding around HK$50-HK$100 in ARPU per customer.

"It is still a very material contribution," Smartone executive director Allen Fung said.

Smartone reported flat earnings of HK$267 million (US$34.4 million), but with a 3% rise in core revenue that it attributes to 5G and higher corporate sales.

HKT posted a 12% rise in mobile revenue for the half thanks to 5G take-up and 5G handset sales.

Hutchison said 5G growth and higher corporate sales had helped drive 7% growth in postpaid net ARPU 7%.

When it comes to coverage, Smartone and Hutchison are both claiming their 5G networks reach 99% of the population.

But Smartone cites French testing firm nPerf as finding that it has the widest coverage. It also says a local market research firm found it is the most preferred 5G service by consumers.

China Mobile HK leads in performance, however, according to the latest Speedtest results released last week. It gives China Mobile a 5G speed score of 197 Mbit/s and the lowest median latency of 11ms.

Business matters

Smartone, HKT and Hutchison all reported gains in their corporate business and a growing proliferation in 5G enterprise use cases.

HKT said it had picked up 5G contracts in nine hospitals, delivering services ranging from robotics to remote consultations and Holomedicine.

Smartone cited a 5G/AI solution that monitored traffic conditions in the city's freeway tunnels and a bus service app that tells commuters if the coming buses have any seats.

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Hutchison said its 58% growth in corporate solutions was led by surveillance, robotics and cloud-based services.

Looking ahead, Smartone's Fung said the business environment would remain difficult, with no visibility into when travel in and out of Hong Kong would resume.

But he said Smartone was "cautiously optimistic" because of the acceleration in 5G uptake and the ability to charge "a real premium over 4G."

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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