Hong Kong Allocates Free mmWave Spectrum to Boost 5G

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In a groundbreaking move, Hong Kong has allocated mmWave frequencies to its four mobile network operators without charging for the spectrum. The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) announced on Tuesday that it will distribute 1.2 GHz of spectrum in the 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands in the third quarter of this year, following applications from the telcos earlier this year.

The largest portion of the spectrum, 600 MHz, will go to Hutchison’s Three Hong Kong. The remaining operators—China Mobile HK, Hong Kong Telecom, and SmarTone—will each receive 200 MHz. This allocation aims to level the playing field, as Hutchison currently lacks 26 GHz/28 GHz spectrum, while the others already possess 400 MHz each. The last mmWave spectrum distribution in 2019 was also free of charge.

The decision to allocate spectrum at no cost is uncommon in the telecom industry, where spectrum licenses typically generate significant revenue for governments. By not charging for the spectrum, OFCA hopes to enable mobile operators to invest more in their network infrastructure, thus accelerating the rollout and enhancing the quality of 5G services. This approach is expected to benefit consumers through improved service quality and support the development of Hong Kong’s smart economy.

An OFCA spokesperson stated that the spectrum allocation would help mobile network operators expand their 5G networks and meet high public demand for reliable, high-speed mobile services. Additionally, it is anticipated to foster innovation and the development of new applications.

Hong Kong has shown impressive progress in 5G deployment. Data from GSMA and Ookla highlighted that Hong Kong was the only market with over 40% 5G availability in the first half of last year, a testament to its high coverage and smartphone penetration rates.

While OFCA plans to auction other spectrum bands later this year, including the 850 MHz/900 MHz and 2.3 GHz bands, the mmWave spectrum giveaway highlights a strategic approach tailored to the specific needs and conditions of the Hong Kong market.

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