The Hong Kong government has issued tenders for its scheme to subsidise construction of high-speed internet to rural Hong Kong villages.
The project aims to build fibre connections to 235 villages across rural Hong Kong, including around 50 villages in Lantau, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau.
It also calls for the construction of new submarine cable links from Lantau to Cheung Chau and Peng Chau and between Hong Kong and Lamma islands.
But those in remote villages hungry for fast broadband may have to be patient.
The scheme, which is divided into six areas across the New Territories and the outlying islands, is not expected to complete until at least 2021.
It only funds the rollout of fibre cable to the “entrance” of each village. Residents will then have to wait for one of the local telecom operators – most likely PCCW or HGC – to run connections to individual households.
It also provides for a minimum download speed of 25Mbps – a fraction of the Hong Kong average of 173 Mbps. Users are most likely to receive a service applying DSL technology on the existing copper phone lines rather than high-speed fibre to the home.
According to Ofca:
The subsidy scheme will subsidise the selected FNOs to roll out lead-in connections to the vicinity of the entrances of the villages concerned.
The subsidy scheme will also subsidise the roll-out of three submarine cables connecting Lamma Island from Hong Kong Island, Cheung Chau from Lantau Island and Peng Chau from Lantau Island respectively.
To encourage competition, the network operators will be required to open up at least half of the capacity of the subsidised network facilities for use by other operators for free.
The plan to subsidise the cost of rural internet construction was foreshadowed by CE Carrie Lam in her January 2017 policy address.
In a paper to the Islands District Council last year, Ofca said that 300 of Hong Kong’s 750 rural villages had a broadband download speed of less than 10Mbps.
Ofca has identified 32 villages in South Lantau and 13 near Tung Chung that qualify for the scheme.
The tender is open to Hong Kong telecom operators holding a fixed network operator licence.
Bidders are asked to stipulate how much subsidy they will require, the level of broadband services and prices, and the construction timetable.
The tender closes on September 10.