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Lawrence Cheung
Vice Chairman
Wireless Technology Industry Association
Hong Kong

1. Tell us about the reasons behind the creation of the HK Wireless Technology Industry Association? When was the idea first voiced? How did it develop?
WTIA was formed in 2001. The predecessor of WTIA was a “WAP user group”. In 2001, both HKPC (Hong Kong Productivity Council) and a group of Industry people were of the view that the future of ICT development had to be in wireless. At the time, there was a lot of anticipation in wireless with the looming introduction of Wireless LAN, Bluetooth, and 3G.

The penetration rate of mobile phone in Hong Kong was already very high at that time. In Hong Kong we saw that most people operated out of their office. In this case, the demand on data connectivity out of the office would only increase with the introduction of new technology and the drop in communication cost.

With this in mind, we felt that it would be an opportune time to form a trade association with Wireless Industry as the focus.

2. What are the sources of HKWTIA financing?
WTIA is a non-profit, self-finance trade association with members from sectors such as the mobile carriers, hand-set manufacturers, content and application developers as well as equipment manufacturers. Apart from the income from membership fees, we frequently run Industry-wide wireless projects that were sponsored by the HK Government and commercial firms. For example, WTIA operates a “Hong Kong Wireless Development Centre” that started as a government sponsored project to promote the wireless technology and application to the Industry in Hong Kong.

3. What do you think about the 3G technology take-up in HK? What are the main challenges you can think of?
The current mobile phone penetration rate in Hong Kong is 140% while 3G penetration is 25%. The year-on-year growth of 3G penetration is 51% compared to August 2006. 3G technology is picking up steadily in Hong Kong. Popular use includes mobile game, video and music download, email and mobile TV. The popularity of 3G is certainly not as good as those in places such as Japan. However, with more people being aware of the ability of making use of 3G or Wi-Fi to access data, the use of 3G will continue to increase. Further to that, operators are also pushing 3G, HSDPA and Wi-Fi integrated service. It will help 3G to become more popular.

In terms of challenges, we believe that 3G will continue to grow despite Wi-Fi or WiMax. With more 3G phones now on the market than 2G phones, consumers will have no choice but to join 3G services. The real issue is user perception. 3G is still perceived by many consumers as being expensive. With HSDPA, this is no longer the case. In Hong Kong, HSDPA services generally cost only HK$2 per Mbyte.

4. Via 3G Network Several HK mobile operators began promotion of mobile TV services. What according to you is its development in HK?
Mobile TV could have a strong potential in Hong Kong. A lot of Hong Kong people are just hooked on the TV. Mobile TV offers them another channel for accessing TV programs. However, there are different mode of Mobile TV in terms of Broadcast mode and Streaming mode. It is still uncertain that which mode will be adopted in Hong Kong.

In terms of content, Hong Kong has always been the originator of many very popular TV programs. As a result, Hong Kong already started from a strong base in terms of contents.

In addition, mobile TV offers content providers to provide very personal and specific programs to the end viewers. Thus this provides an opportunity for small boutique style production house in producing specialised contents for the end-users.

5. What are your views on “Wi-Fi City Concept” initiative?
WTIA welcomes the Wi-Fi City Concept in Hong Kong. Although we do not have a Government driven Wi-Fi City program as in Taiwan and Singapore, Hong Kong operators are already started to offer territory-wide integrated HSDPA, 3G and Wi-Fi services across the entire territory. In our view, this would not be worse off compared to the Wi-Fi City concept. Hong Kong traditionally has a very strong and robust mobile phone infrastructure. By leveraging the network infrastructure together with Wi-Fi, it could even have a more robust mobile data network for the end user.

In the future, with the end-users getting use to gaining wireless access to the Internet, the demand on roaming and mobility will increase. In this respect, Wi-Fi is weak compared to HSDPA. All in all, the final solution to this demand could well be WiMAX.

6. What is the situation with WiMax in Hong Kong? Does WiMax pose any threat to 3G?
The awareness level of WiMAX is gaining in Hong Kong although there is not much solid activities yet. WTIA and HKPC are looking into forming an Industry Consortium to promote and drive the development and deployment of WiMAX in Hong Kong. We viewed that with Hong Kong consumer’s interests in new technology, WiMAX would have a strong potential.

On the other hand, we do not believe it would affect 3G in a big way. Before WiMAX infrastructure is set up broadly and devices readily available, 3G would be coming towards the end of its useful life. Furthermore, the initial use of WiMAX would be people using notebooks or PDA in accessing data while 3G would be mainly phone based consumers. The real competitor to WiMAX would be 4G.