Hong Kong to Kick Off 3G Mobile Data Services

HONG KONG (01/03/2000) - Hong Kong is setting up its red-hot mobile communications market for broadband, with licenses for third-generation (3G) services scheduled to be issued late this year, the government confirmed today.

Mobile 3G technology will allow users to access information and services wirelessly over the Internet at speeds as high as 2M bits per second (bps). The higher speeds will open the door to new mobile applications, observers say.

Before opening the application process for 3G licenses, the Hong Kong government will issue a consultation paper on the technology and collect opinions on licensing policies, according to a representative of the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA). Through that process, the government will determine the number and terms of the licenses.

After the licenses are issued, 3G services should become available in 2001, the representative said.

The licenses will bring the highly anticipated global wireless standard to one of the hottest mobile markets in the world. OFTA says there were more than 3.6 million mobile handsets for the territory's approximately 6.7 million residents in October 1999. That reflects nearly 800,000 new handsets since December 1998, OFTA reported. A wide variety of carriers compete to sell services.

Mobile handset-based Internet services, using use the Wireless Application Protocol, are already available in Hong Kong at lower data rates, such as 14.4K bps.

The next generation of services, sometimes called 2.5G, will increase that speed to 144K bps. 3G will more than double throughput to 384K bps for users in motion and 2M bps for stationary users such as those using PCs in airport terminals.

Internet commerce transactions, corporate productivity applications and location-specific information such as maps may be among the emerging uses of mobile devices with the boost in speed.

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