Hong Kong mobile TV spectrum up for auction by mid-2009

The Hong Kong Commerce & Economic Development Bureau will auction the frequency spectrum for broadcast mobile TV services as early as mid-2009 in an attempt to facilitate service launches by 2010.

This implementation initiative is intended to enhance Hong Kong's position as a regional broadcasting hub according to Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development for Communications & Technology Duncan Pescod.

"The framework aims to create an enabling environment that promotes innovation, investment and competition of local mobile TV services for the benefit of consumers," Pescod said, adding that it takes advantage of a market-led, technology-neutral, facilitative regulatory approach.

The framework stipulates the introduction of a point-to-multipoint broadcast-type mobile TV service that can deliver audio-visual content to a critical mass of viewers — free-to-air mobile TV. Because it will require additional frequency, the Telecommunications Authority will allocate one frequency multiplex in the UHF band and two in Band III on a 15-year license by auction.

The UHF band can make 20 mobile TV channels available, while the two multiplexes in Band III can provide six channels. These will be auctioned as two separate packages with no individual party allowed to acquire more than one package.

As part of its "pro-mobile TV" approach, successful bidders will be required to use at least half of the transmission capacity for providing mobile TV content. The remaining capacity can be used to provide other non-mobile TV services, such as digital audio broadcasting or datacasting.

The mandatory percentage will come up for review in five years. Other telecoms, and value-added services that may be provided alongside mobile TV services, will remain subject to the existing licensing rules.

Operators are required to launch mobile TV services within 18 months from the unified carrier license grant. While sharing of hilltop broadcasting facilities is subject to mutual agreements through commercial negotiation, the Telecommunications Authority has the power to adjudicate.

Mobile TV services' geographical coverage will have to satisfy a baseline requirement of half of the population, and prospective mobile TV operators will have to put up performance bonds to guarantee compliance if they secure licenses.

"Prospective operators will be subject to the payment of a spectrum utilization fee, also determined by auction. This is in line with our established spectrum policy," Pescod said.

The authority says that it has adopted a "light-handed approach" in regulating its content by general law and through industry self-regulation. For instance, there will be no ownership or crossholding restrictions on the operators, nor will it dictate the mobile TV standards to be used. Currently, mobile TV in Hong Kong is offered through cell phone operators' 2.5G and 3G networks.

For more information, visit www.news.gov.hk/en/category/infrastructureandlogistics/081222/html/081222en06001.htm or listen to Secretary Pescod's webcast at http://webcast2.info.gov.hk/pc2008/221208e.wvx.