OFTA - Telecom Milestones

Telecom Milestones

* The Groundbreaking Decade - Major Developments in the Hong Kong Telecom Industry in the Past 10 Years (30 June 2003)

Milestones of Telecommunications in Hong Kong

Year

      Milestones
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1871

  • Submarine telegraph cables were landed in Hong Kong at Telegraph Bay in Pokfulam.
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1873

  • Eastern Extension Australia and China Telegraph Company was formed and operated links from Madras, to Darwin, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
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1877

  • Telephone was introduced in Hong Kong, one year after Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention.
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1882

  • First public telephone service was introduced into Hong Kong by Oriental Telephone and Electric Company which later became China and Japan Telephone and Electric Company.
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1905

  • Cable was laid across Victoria Harbour to extend telephone services to Kowloon.
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1925

  • China and Japan Telephone and Electric Company was taken over by the newly formed Hong Kong Telephone Company Limited (HKTC). Hong Kong Government granted HKTC the sole right to supply and operate telephone services in Hong Kong for a period of 50 years commencing 1 July.
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1931

  • Telephone service between Hong Kong and Guangzhou was launched
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1954

  • Leased telegraph circuits were in operation between Hong Kong and overseas administrations.
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1962

  • Franchised licence was granted to Cable & Wireless Limited to provide external telephone and telegraph circuits and services until 31 December 1987.
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1968

  • Hong Kong Government extended HKTC's franchise for a further period of 20 years with effect from 1 July 1975.
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1971

  • First public radio paging service was introduced in Hong Kong by Apollo Telephone Answering Services Limited.
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1976

  • International Direct Dialing (IDD) was introduced.
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1981

  • Optical fibre cables were deployed in the local telephone network by HKTC.
  • An exclusive licence with expiry in 2006, covering the provision of a range of external telecommunications circuits and services, was granted to Cable and Wireless (Hong Kong) Limited.
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1984

  • First public mobile radiotelephone service using NAMTS (NEC Advance Mobile Telephone System) was introduced by Communication Services Limited (CSL), a wholly owned subsidiary company of HKTC.
  • Chinatel was granted a licence to operate a public car telephone (Comvik) system.
  • Hutchison Telephone Company Limited was granted a licence to operate an AMPS cellular radiotelephone network.
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1985

  • The interconnection charge for public mobile radiotelephone service was set at 7 cents per minute.
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1987

  • CSL was granted a licence to operate a TACS cellular radiotelephone network. The network was called UNITACS.
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1988

  • Hutchison Telephone Company Limited was granted a licence to operate the second TACS cellular radiotelephone network.
  • Hong Kong Telecommunications Limited formed by merger of Hong Kong Telephone Company Limited and Cable and Wireless (Hong Kong) Limited.
  • Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat) was formed and was the first local and Asia's privately owned satellite operator.
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1989

  • Chinatel was renamed as Pacific Link Communications Limited and the subscribers were offered a deal to change over to a new ETACS cellular radiotelephone network.
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1990

  • The Hong Kong Telecommunications Limited was restructured to four wholly-owned operating companies: Hong Kong Telephone Company Limited, Hong Kong Telecom International Limited (formerly Cable and Wireless (Hong Kong) Limited), Hong Kong Telecom CSL Limited and Computasia Limited.
  • The first satellite of AsiaSat (AsiaSat 1) was launched in April.
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1991

  • The interconnection charges for public mobile radiotelephone services and for value added services were revised to 9 cents per minute.
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1992

  • Telepoint (CT2) services were launched by Hutchison Paging Company Limited and Chevalier (Telepoint) Limited in March and April respectively.
  • The first Frequency Coordination Agreement between Hong Kong and Guangdong was signed in May.
  • Pacific Link launched its Digital-AMPS mobile telephone service in October.
  • SmartCom Limited was awarded a licence to operate GSM network.
  • The number of paging customers exceeded 1 million.
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1993

  • Hong Kong's local telephone network was fully digitalised.
  • SmartCom Limited (later became SmarTone Mobile Communications Limited) launched its GSM system in January.
  • Pacific TeleLink Limited launched its CT2 service in March.
  • Wharf Cable Limited was granted an exclusive cable television licence in June to operate cable television services in Hong Kong for 3 years.
  • The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) was established on 1 July.
  • Hong Kong Telecom CSL launched its GSM service in July.
  • TA took over the control of telephone numbers.
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1994

  • Fixed telephone exchange lines exceeded 3 million.
  • The number of paging customers peaked in December.
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1995

  • Telephone numbers were changed from 7 to 8 digits on 1 January.
  • Following the expiry of HKTC's franchise on 30 June, HKTC and three new companies (New World Telephone Limited, New T&T Hong Kong Limited and Hutchison Communications Limited) were licensed to provide local fixed telecommunication services on a competitive basis.
  • Hutchison Telephone launched its GSM and CDMA service in June and October respectively.
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1996

  • Six licences were issued in September for provision of personal communication services (PCS). The licensees were: Hutchison Telephone Company Limited, Mandarin Communications Limited, New World PCS Limited, Pacific Link Communications Limited, P Plus Communications Limited and Peoples Telephone Company Limited.
  • All CT-2 networks were shut down and public CT-2 services were terminated.
  • New T&T launched its direct exchange line service (DEL) to business customers in October.
  • New World Telephone offered DEL services to business and residential customers in January & November respectively.
  • HKTC launched the first integrated services digital network (ISDN) in Hong Kong in October, offering commercial ISDN basic rate interface (BRI) and primary rate interface (PRI).
  • The first Calling Number Display (CND) service was introduced in HKTC's fixed network in December.
  • Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 1 million.
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1997

  • Full portability of telephone numbers was achieved for fixed telephone services in January.
  • Direct exchange line services were available to business and residential customers from Hutchison Communications in January.
  • Peoples Telephone Company Limited launched its PCS in January.
  • New World and Hutchison joined the competition in the PCS market in March.
  • First licence for provision of Virtual Private Network Services was issued to BT (Hong Kong) Limited in May.
  • P Plus Communications and Mandarin Communications launched their PCS in June.
  • Pacific Link launched its PCS in July.
  • Calling Name Display (CNAMD) service was introduced in mid-October.
  • Hong Kong Telecom CSL Limited acquired Pacific Link Communications Limited in December. The acquisition included the digital cellular phone services (D-Amps), PCS (GSM1800) and radio paging services.
  • Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 2 million.
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1998

  • First licence for provision of International Simple Resale (ISR) for Fax and Data Services was issued to City Telecom (HK) Limited in January.
  • P Plus Communications Limited, one of the six PCS operators, was acquired by SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings Limited in March.
  • In March, after lengthy negotiation with the Government, Hong Kong Telecom International surrendered its exclusive licence for provision of certain external telecommunication circuits and services eight years earlier than the scheduled expiry in 2006 in return for a cash compensation of HK$6.7 billion.
  • Analogue mobile phone service was completely phased out. Mobile service began fully digitalised.
  • The Hong Kong Telecommunications Equipment Evaluation and Certification (HKTEC) Scheme was launched in September.
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1999

  • The external telecommunications services market was liberalised with effect from 1 January. External telecommunications services operators were allowed to refile traffic through Hong Kong between locations at the distant ends of Category A routes (routes include those over which it would be possible for genuine price competition to occur through direct ISR connection, indirect routing through refiling, direct physical connection through competitive external gateway facilities or such connection indirectly established via transit arrangements).
  • Mobile Number Portability was implemented on 1 March.
  • In August, Hong Kong reached an agreement with Australia, Singapore and Chinese Taipei on implementation of APEC TEL MRA Phase I Procedures which facilitates mutual recognition of test reports.
  • The number of Internet dial-up customers exceeded 1 million in August.
  • The number of mobile phone subscribers exceeded 3 million in February and surpassed the number of fixed telephone lines in November.
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2000

  • In January, the telecommunications market was fully liberalised after the liberalisation of the external facility-based market. Five licences for local fixed telecommunication network services using wireless means, twelve satellite-based external FTNS licences and four cable-based external FTNS licences were issued. Hong Kong Cable TV was issued a licence to provide telecommunications services over its hybrid fibre coaxial cable (HFC) networks.
  • Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 4 million in January.
  • Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited, one of the five wireless local fixed network licensees, launched its services in February.
  • The number of Internet dial-up customers exceeded 2 million in April.
  • The Telecommunication (Amendment) Ordinance 2000 was passed by the Legislative Council in June. Major amendments include enhancing the competition safeguards for the telecommunications industry, improving the interconnection and access to land and buildings for the establishment of telecommunications equipment for the telecommunications operators, streamlining the licensing framework to respond more flexibly to market development and providing powers to the TA on certain technical matters (e.g. numbering plan and technical standards).
  • In June, AsiaSat was awarded a licence to launch and operate a satellite (AsiaSat 4) carrying the four Broadcasting Satellite Service (BSS) channels assigned to Hong Kong.
  • Pacific Century CyberWorks acquired Cable & Wireless HKT in August (Hong Kong Telecommunications Limited changed its name to Cable & Wireless HKT Limited in July 1999).
  • Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 5 million in October.
  • In November, a new Frequency Coordination Agreement was signed between Hong Kong and Guangdong on procedures and standards for coordinating terrestrial radiocommunications services in the frequency band from 30 MHz to 40 GHz
  • Cable-based external FTNS operator Level 3 Communications Limited announced that the first leg of its pan-Asia submarine cable system was landed in Hong Kong in November.
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2001
  • Cable-based external FTNS operator Asia Global Crossing Hong Kong Limited announced that its submarine cable "East Asia Crossing" had landed in Hong Kong in January.
  • Cable-based external FTNS operator China Unicom International Limited had completed its overland cable between Hong Kong and mainland China and launched services in the first quarter.
  • Asia Pacific Cable Network 2 landed in Hong Kong in February. It will connect the Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • A new automatic direction-finding system to monitor radio channels and locate sources of interference in and around Hong Kong was installed in the Radio Monitoring Unit of OFTA.
  • Broadband Internet customers exceeded 0.44 million in March, representing a five-fold increase within one year.
  • The Telecommunications (Carrier Licences) Regulation was brought into effect on 1 April, introducing a more effective and efficient licensing regime for carrier licence.
  • Mobile phone subscribers exceeded 5.5 million in April, representing an 80% penetration of the population.
  • The Telecommunications (Amendment) Ordinance 2001 was enacted by the Legislative Council in May. The major amendment is to empower the Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting and the TA to conduct auctions or tenders for the use of spectrum. Such provision is necessary for the licensing of third generation mobile services (3G) and future exercises involving auctions or tenders.
  • The C2C submarine cable network landed at Chung Hom Kok in July. The submarine link will connect Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan and Singapore.
  • Licensing for third generation mobile service was completed in October with the award of licences to four successful bidders: Hong Kong CSL Limited, Hutchison 3G HK Limited, SmarTone 3G Limited and SUNDAY 3G (Hong Kong) Limited. In accordance with the 3G regulatory framework, the network licensees are required to open up at least 30 per cent of their capacity for use by non-affiliated Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) and/or content and service providers.
  • Inter-operator Short Message Service was launched by all six mobile network operators in December, allowing a customer to send short message to other customers even they are in different networks.
  • In December, the capacity of external telecommunications facilities, namely the cable and satellite systems, recorded a tremendous increase over the year from 18 Gbps to 235 Gbps. The increase in bandwidth was mainly attributed to the new submarine cable capacity brought in Hong Kong by the cable-based external FTNS operators.
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2002

  • In January, the TA announced details on the implementation of the policy to fully liberalize the FTNS market from 1 January 2003 with no pre-set limit on the number of licences to be issued.
  • In March, the number of broadband Internet customers reached 716,000, representing more than 10% of population.
  • Asia's first Mutlimedia Messaging Services (MMS) was launched in Hong Kong by Hong Kong CSL in April.
  • In June, the Billing and Metering Integrity Scheme was announced by the TA. Operators will be required to comply with the billing and metering integrity standards and requirements by 1 January, 2003.
  • Hong Kong was ranked top of the Mobile/Internet index rankings by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in its report - "Internet for a Mobile Generation" released in September 2002.
  • In October, the Class Licence for In-Building Telecommunications System was introduced. It was the first class licence created after the introduction of the class licence system into the telecommunications regulatory regime by the Telecommunication (Amendment) Ordinance 2000.
  • Inter-operator Multi-media Messaging Service was launched by mobile network operators in December, allowing customers to send multi-media messages to customers in different networks.
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2003

  • The telecommunications market was fully liberalised. Further competition was introduced with more fixed telecommunication operators licensed to provide services from January 2003.
  • The number of broadband Internet customers exceeded one million in January.
  • In January, the Class Licence for the provision of Public Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) Services was introduced. The Class Licence will provide a streamlined licensing regime for operators to run public wireless LAN services without the need for individual licence application or approval.
  • In April, the AsiaSat 4 satellite which carries the four Broadcasting Satellite Service (BSS) channels assigned to Hong Kong was successfully launched. The transponders on board the satellite may be used to provide telecommunications and broadcasting coverage across the Asia region.
  • In September, the number of broadband Internet customers reached 1.16 million and exceeded that of dial-up Internet customers.
  • The penetration rate of mobile subscribers exceeded 100%, attributing to the increase of usage of pre-paid SIM cards.
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2004
  • Hutchison 3G HK Limited launched the first Third Generation Mobile (3G) service in Hong Kong in January.
  • APT Satellite Company Limited launched APSTAR V in June, the seventh satellite licensed by Hong Kong.
  • The government announced in July that Type II interconnection obligation at exchange level would be fully withdrawn by 30 June 2008. In the run up to 30 June 2008, the withdrawal would be implemented on a building-by-building basis and apply to buildings already connected to at least two self-built customer access networks.
  • As of September 2004, broadband Internet customer accounts exceeded 1.4 million while the household broadband penetration rate was very close to 59%.
  • In September, mobile phone subscribers exceeded 8 million, representing a 117% penetration of the population.
  • The government decided in November to grant the nine incumbent GSM and PCS licensees providing 2G mobile services new Mobile Carrier Licences for a period of 15 years after the expiry of their existing licences between 2005 and 2006.
  • Hong Kong Broadband Network Limited announced a plan in November to launch the high speed symmetric 100Mbps and 1000 Mbps residential broadband services.
  • Smartone 3G Limited and Hong Kong CSL Limited launched their 3G services in December.
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2005
  • In January, OFTA introduced a framework under which quality of service (QoS) information on residential broadband Internet service will be available to consumers for making informed choices.
  • OFTA announced its decision in January to lift the prior - approval requirement on PCCW-HKT Telephone Limited's prices via the issue of a new Fixed Carrier Licence, shifting from the ex ante to the ex post regulation approach. The lifting of the prior-approval requirement has given the company greater flexibility in responding to market competition.
  • APT Satellite Company Limited launched APSTAR VI in April, the eighth satellite licensed by Hong Kong.
  • The Telecommunications (Telecommunications Apparatus) (Exemption from Licensing) (Amendment) Order came into effect on 15 April. The Order expanded and updated the telecommunications apparatus exempted from licensing to reflect technological advancement and market situation.
  • PCCW Limited purchased a majority share of SUNDAY Communications Limited in June.
  • SUNDAY 3G (Hong Kong) Limited launched its 3G services in June.
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2006
  • A Class Licence for Citizen Band Radio was created in January to facilitate public use of the radio operating in the 26.96-27.41MHz band for recreational and other communications purposes.
  • A new Services-Based Operator (SBO) Licence for the provision of Internet Protocol (IP) telephony services was introduced in January.
  • China Mobile (Hong Kong) Limited acquired China Resources Peoples Telephone Company Limited in March and renamed it to China Mobile Peoples Telephone Company Limited.
  • A joint venture company, CSL New World Mobility Limited was created in April to own two mobile telephone operators, New World PCS Limited and Hong Kong CSL Limited.
  • The first High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) mobile broadband network that provides a data speed of 1.8Mbps with full coverage in Hong Kong was launched in June.
  • The number of 3G subscribers exceeded 1 million in July.
  • The number of households covered by at least two self-built customer access networks increased to 76% of the total number of households in October.
  • The ITU TELECOM WORLD 2006 was held in Hong Kong in December. This is the first time since its inauguration in 1971 that an ITU TELECOM WORLD event is held outside Geneva.
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2007
  • IPTV customers exceeded 800,000 and household penetration exceeded 35% in January.
  • The class licensing regime to regulate the resellers of telecommunications services came into effect on 2 February.
  • The new Spectrum Policy Framework (SPF) and the first Spectrum Release Plan were announced in April. Under the SPF, market-based approach for the management of radio spectrum would be employed as far as possible. The publication of the Plan was also for increasing the transparency of the supply of radio spectrum.
  • The consultation on "Deregulation of Fixed-Mobile Convergence" was concluded in April whereby a Statement was issued to make the decisions on, among other things, the withdrawal of the current regulatory guidance on fixed mobile interconnection charge arrangement which assumes an approach of "Mobile Party's Network Pays" (MPNP).
  • The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (UEMO) came into force on 1 June and was fully implemented on 22 December. Three Do-not-call Registers for faxes, short messages and pre-recorded telephone messages were activated in phases.
  • On 4 June, the Telecommunications Authority announced to adopt the National Standard as the technical standard for the digital terrestrial television (DTT) service in Hong Kong. According to the plan, the existing two broadcasters should simulcast both digital and analogue terrestrial television before the end of 2007.
  • The universal service obligation of PCCW-HKT Limited was reviewed to exclude the services for buildings with at least one alternative fixed customer-access network in June.
  • Hong Kong was a world leader in the rollout of public WiFi service with more than 7,300 hotspots in operation in 4,400 locations in September.
  • The number of mobile service subscribers in Hong Kong soared to a record high of 10 million in October.
  • In December, the first phase of DTT services was implemented covering 50% of the population in Hong Kong.
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2008
  • According to a report published by the FTTH Councils of Asia Pacific, Europe and North America in February 2008, with a household penetration of 23.4%, Hong Kong ranked second in the world in the penetration of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) plus local area networks.
  • In May, the TA announced the detailed licensing arrangements for the new Unified Carrier Licence (UCL), which enables facility-based operators to provide fixed, mobile or converged services under a single and flexible licensing framework.
  • Complete withdrawal of mandatory Type II interconnection at the telephone exchange level in July.
  • The coverage of DTT services continued to expand to cover 75% of the Hong Kong population in August.
  • In November, PCCW launched CDMA2000 mobile services in Hong Kong. This was the fifth 3G mobile network which further strengthens Hong Kong’s strategic position as a gateway between the Mainland China and the world.
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2009
  • The 2.5 - 2.6 GHz band for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) was auctioned with a total spectrum utilisation fee exceeding HK$1.5 billion in January.
  • Local mobile data usage experienced significant surge to 147 Terabytes (i.e. 147,000 Gigabytes), or an average amount of 44 Mbytes per 2.5G/3G mobile user in January. This represents 4 times and 14 times the mobile data usage over the same period in 2008 and 2007 respectively.
  • The transition period for the de-regulation of the Fixed Mobile Interconnection Charge (FMIC) officially ended in April.
  • Starting from 1 July, telecommunications operators might begin to provide Fixed Mobile Number Portability (FMNP) service on a voluntary basis.
  • Starting from 1 October, Hong Kong service suppliers (HKSS) were allowed to distribute in the Guangdong province fixed and mobile telephone cards which could only be used in Hong Kong under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).
  • In October, the TA announced the detailed licensing arrangements for a modified Services-Based Operator (SBO) Licence, which enables all kinds of service-based provision of public telecommunications services to be regulated under a single and flexible licensing framework.
  • In line with the Government's policy to promote and develop the local testing and certification industry, the TA has accredited four local certification bodies to perform full range of testing and certification services previously provided by OFTA, starting from 1 October 2009.
  • The coverage of DTT services continued to expand to cover 85% of the Hong Kong population by end 2009.

 

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2010
  • In June, the radio spectrum in the 678 - 686 MHz band for the provision of broadcast-type mobile TV services was successfully auctioned at the spectrum utilization fee of HK$175 million.
  • According to a report published by the Asia Pacific Carriers' Coalition in June, Hong Kong provides the most economical local broadband access service in the Asia Pacific region.  This reaffirms the position of Hong Kong as the premier telecommunications hub in the region.
  • A study conducted by the University of Oxford revealed that as at June, out of the 72 countries and 239 cities under survey, Hong Kong ranks second in the global broadband leadership table.
  • In August, the TA announced his decision to deregulate the mandatory provision of White Pages by fixed operators. The TA has also decided to maintain the requirement for fixed operators to provide telephonic directory enquiry service to their subscribers.
  • According to a report published by Fiber-to-the Home Council in September 2010, with a household penetration of 34%, Hong Kong ranked third in the world in the penetration of fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-building market penetration.
  • The first BWA service network is commercially launched in November.
  • In November, OFTA introduced a voluntary registration scheme for buildings with optical fibre access networks to promote further development of the broadband infrastructure in Hong Kong.
  • The coverage of DTT services continued to expand to cover about 90% of the Hong Kong population by end 2010.
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2011
  • In March, OFTA successfully conducted an auction of radio spectrum in the 850 MHz and 900 MHz Bands, with a total of 20 MHz of spectrum acquired by two operators at a total spectrum utilization fee of HK$1,952 million.
  • Hong Kong residential and business users pay as low as one-tenth of the telecommunications charges as their counterparts in six other cities, namely Copenhagen, London, New York, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, as revealed by the findings released in May of an international tariff benchmarking study commissioned by OFTA.
  • The first Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) station was launched in August.
  • In September, OFTA jointly issued a statement with Commerce and Economic Development Bureau on the imposition of Spectrum Utilization Fee (SUF) on non-government uses of radio spectrum assigned administratively.

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