Govt cash for broadband plan catches industry attention

CE Carrie Lam’s promise to subsidise rural broadband could speed up the deployment of high-speed internet, but it is still too early to tell.

A senior HKT engineer told Lantau News the company was interested in the proposal outlined in Lam’s October 11 policy address, but government officials had been unable to add any detail.

Most likely no more information will emerge until the budget is handed down in February, an assistant to IT sector legislator Charles Mok said.

Lam said her plan would cover “about 380 villages currently without high-speed”coverage and would benefit nearly 170,000 people.

Hong Kong ranks near the top in global broadband speeds in most surveys. In the Speedtest Global Index it places second behind Singapore with peak speed of 145Mbps.

But until 18 months ago South Lantau residents went online via HKT’s old copper network, with most people receiving no more than 4-5Mbps downlinks and many even less.

That began to change last year when a new firm, Top Express, began building a fibre network in Mui Wo.

Today some Mui Wo villages have access to the Top Express fibre – with HGC as service provider – which can deliver 500Mbps or 1Gbps on the downlink.

The arrival of the new player appears to have jolted HKT into action as well. It has upgraded its copper network to a newer technology, VDSL, which offers 100Mbps service, in Mui Wo, Pui O, Ham Tin, Tong Fuk and Shui Hau.

Top Express also said it would install fibre in Tong Fuk this year, but a company executive said this week that had been delayed until 2018.

The HKT engineer said the company wanted to explore using wireless technologies to connect some of the hard-to-reach villages. Current 4G technology is now reaching top speeds of 1Gbps and the coming era of 5G is promising to increase that tenfold.

For remote Lantau villages such as Sham Wat and Tai Long Wan, wireless would be a faster and less expensive option than fibre, he said.

 

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