Regulator slams HKT’s ‘reckless and unreasonable’ criticisms.

HKT has taken Hong Kong’s government to task, accusing it of failing to draw up a spectrum policy that will support future 5G services.

Hong Kong’s telco regulator, the Office of the Communications Authority, said the criticisms are reckless and unreasonable.

HKT warned in a paper published last week that the requirements of 5G cannot be met by simply refarming existing frequencies. HKT pointed out that 582 MHz of spectrum is currently used for 2G, 3G and 4G services in Hong Kong, whereas multiple spectrum bands of at least 100 MHz will be needed just for 5G.

"Spectrum allocation can no longer be generic as in the past when the focus was on mobile broadband alone," HKT said.

For 5G, high frequency bands are needed for ultrafast throughput, while lower bands are needed for in-building penetration and extensive coverage, the telco said.

"Spectrum allocation for true 5G needs a thorough understanding and consideration of these different requirements and how to meet them. This is a sea change and requires forward thinking and careful planning," HKT said.

As far as HKT is concerned though, Hong Kong’s government has so far done nothing to facilitate 5G.

"The government has not made any new spectrum available since 2013 and will not be making any new spectrum available until 2020 at the earliest," HKT said.

It pointed out for comparative purposes that the U.K. and EU have already committed to allocating the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands to 5G in time for commercial launches in 2020. In addition, China, Japan, and South Korea are all making more spectrum available in time for 2020.

"Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, OFCA has stated that there is no new spectrum available for at least the next three years," HKT said.

In a statement, the OFCA strongly contested what it called HKT’s "reckless and unreasonable criticisms and allegations."

It insisted it has been tracking the ITU’s timetable for allocating spectrum between 24.25 GHz and 86 GHz for 5G.

"Currently, only a small portion of spectrum in the frequency bands between 24.25 GHz to 86 GHz have been assigned to existing services in Hong Kong, while a majority of the frequency bands have still been left vacant. After the harmonisation of the spectrum plan at the international and regional levels, the CA (Communications Authority) can immediately allocate the applicable portions for 5G services," the OFCA said.

The watchdog also said that 700-MHz spectrum, which is currently used for TV services, is due to be switched over by 2020 so the frequencies can be used for mobile services.

In the meantime, the OFCA said it is willing to provide assistance to any operator that wants to conduct a 5G trial in a specific frequency band, and said that operators are free to refarm their existing spectrum for 5G.