China Mobile to Start Hong Kong 4G Service, Take on Telstra

China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest phone company by users, plans to begin fourth-generation wireless service in Hong Kong this month to win customers from rivals including Telstra Corp. (TLS) and PCCW Ltd. (8)

The Chinese company will offer more than one 4G handset when it rolls out the service on April 25, Sean Lee, chief executive officer of China Mobile Hong Kong Co., said at a briefing today, without elaborating. A total of 10 4G phones will become available for customers this year, he said.

China Mobile will become the second operator to offer 4G in Hong Kong after Telstra Corp.’s CSL Ltd. in 2010. The fourth- generation service lets users download games and videos on their phones at the fastest speeds available as operators compete for users in a city where the number of mobile customers is twice the population.

Discounts for handsets will be offered to 4G subscribers, Lee said. China Mobile’s 4G plans will be priced “close” to slower 3G services, he said, without providing numbers.

The high-speed service, based on LTE technology, offers maximum download speeds of 100 megabits a second, or as much as 50 times quicker than 3G, China Mobile said.

Shares of China Mobile fell 0.4 percent to HK$86.15 at the close of Hong Kong trading. The city’s Hang Seng Index rose 1 percent.

The Hong Kong unit successfully bid in February for its second spectrum band to offer 4G Long-Term Evolution service, after acquiring frequency in 2009.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings Ltd. (215) and his son’s PCCW also plan to start 4G services later this year.

China Mobile accounts for more than 20 percent of Hong Kong’s wireless market, Tiger Lin, chairman of the Hong Kong unit, said today, declining to specify the number of users.

The latest bid gave China Mobile the 2330-megahertz to 2360-megahertz time division duplex, or TDD, spectrum, adding to the 2600-megahertz frequency division duplex, or FDD, spectrum obtained in 2009.

FDD and TDD are the two primary methods of delivering 4G LTE wireless service.

China Mobile’s state-owned parent is rolling out a trial network for 4G service in other parts of China that’s based on the TDD mode.

The TD-LTE 4G trial will be expanded to nine cities in China from six last year, China Mobile Ltd. (941) said last month. The company will test 20,000 4G base stations this year, taking the total number in the China trial to more than 200,000 in 2013, it said.

Hong Kong had 15.1 million mobile-phone customers as of January, according to the city’s Office of the Communications Authority. Its population stood at 7.1 million at the end of last year.

China Mobile acquired Peoples Telephone Co. to expand in Hong Kong in 2006. The unit was renamed China Mobile Hong Kong Co. in 2008.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net; Mark Lee in Hong Kong at wlee37@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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