Hong Kong’s spectrum policy review has been undertaken by the CITB policy bureau, not by OFTA, the regulator, and in small but significant ways departs from the philosophy of past policy and regulation by dropping technology neutrality with respect to spectrum to be reserved for China’s TD-SCDMA standard for 3G mobile. The CITB has also separately proposed to provide public assets (locations and some funding) to create WiFi access points across Hong Kong, a policy that has rather inevitably brought a reaction from PCCW who fear public funding for a service that could become competitive to their own WiFi or 3G services. During 2006, most of the operators joined forces to oppose OFTA from an early issuing of BWA licences, ostensibly on the grounds that an overall spectrum policy review was required before a licensing exercise that could, among other things – such as creating areas of radio interference with, for example, satellite transmissions – introduce further competition into the market. With this background, TIF debates the spectrum policy review with sponsorship from Analysys, an international research and consulting company with considerable expertise in this area.
But one other event was taken into account. On 26th December 2006 an earthquake off the coast of Taiwan, in an area known as the Luzon Straits, cut international submarine cable connections, closing down access to the Internet for several days and to overseas telephone and fax connections. It took many weeks to get Hong Kong back to normal, and this brought some stinging criticism from users and from legislators only too aware of the impact on business, on personal communications and upon Hong Kong’s reputation as a communications hub. Given the seriousness of this event, the first session of TIF is devoted to it and the lessons to be learned.