Hong Kong carriers scoop up 3.5 GHz spectrum at 5G auction

Hong Kong
Hong Kong's four mobile operators collectively spent $128 million for 200 MHz of 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band. (Getty Images)

Mobile operators in Hong Kong this week acquired 3.5 GHz spectrum following a 5G auction, with plans to launch 5G services next year.   

The Office of Communications Authority (OFCA) on Monday announced that 200 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum was successfully auctioned to Hong Kong’s four mobile operators for a total of HK$1.006 billion ($128 million).

China Mobile Hong Kong spent HK$300 million ($38 million) for 60 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band and said the mid-frequency bands will serve to help provide a 5G network across Hong Kong.

“We are very excited about the successful bid for 3.5 GHz spectrums which proves the determination of China Mobile Hong Kong to provide prestigious mobile experience to our customers,” said Sean Lee, director and CEO of China Mobile Hong Kong, in a statement.

Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT), meanwhile paid HK$252 million ($32 million) for 50 MHz of spectrum, and said it plans to offer 5G services in the second quarter of 2020 “when the necessary ecosystem is in place.”

HKT said it holds the largest amount of mobile spectrum in Hong Kong and was happy with the spectrum prices.

“We are pleased that, as a result of rational biddings, HKT is able to obtain 50 MHz of contiguous spectrum at a price that is beneficial to the industry as well as the mobile users,” HKT said in a statement.

SmarTone also spent HK$252 million ($32 million) at the 5G auction, while 3 Hutchison Hong Kong put out HK$202 million ($26 million) for 40 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum.

“Our acquisition of 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band marks yet another milestone in development of our 5G network,” said Kenny Koo, Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings (HTHKH) executive director and CEO, in a statement. “The 3.5 GHz band has been dubbed the ‘golden spectrum band’ because of attributes including superiority of coverage and penetration. This deployment fits well with plans to integrate our existing network and re-farm some existing spectrum to facilitate provision of a 5G service.”

He added that the company is “fully committed” to deploying a 5G network and services in 2020.

Spectrum assignment will take effect April 2020 and be valid for 15 years, according to OFCA.

Next up, OFCA plans to auction spectrum in the 4.9 GHz and 3.3 GHz bands.