Hong Kong operators to share small cells for indoor 5G

05 September 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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All Hong Kong mobile operators will have to share access for indoor 5G small cells with their rivals, according to a senior executive of the telco with the biggest market share.

Sheldon Yau, a senior vice president at Hong Kong Telecom (HKT), told a conference yesterday that landlords will run a bidding process to select one 5G operator for each shopping mall or other development and require it to share access.

“The lowest bidder wins the tender and will be obliged to share with the others,” Yau said in response to a question from Capacity at a Huawei conference in Munich.

The winning bidder will not be able to negotiate any wholesale price for 5G access, added Yau, who runs wireless network planning and design at HKT, part of the same group that owns PCCW Global.

HKT has a 31.2% mobile market share in Hong Kong, said Yau at the Huawei Operations Transformation Forum. Hutchison has 23.6%, followed by China Mobile with 23.0% and SmarTone with 12.8%.

He pointed out that this will follow the established pattern Hong Kong has already adopted for Wifi access in malls and other developments.

There will be an increasing need for small cells to ensure coverage in the 5G era, he said – noting that 81% of all current mobile traffic originates from callers who are indoors.

“This trend keeps going, but 72% of our sites are outdoors and only 28% indoors. We are building more and more outdoor sites for indoor coverage. This has been our strategy for 20 years – and that of other operators too. Can we provide sufficient capacity when 5G is coming.”

HKT has worked with Huawei and the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), a trade body, to produce a white paper on indoor 5G networks (PDF here).

All of HKT’s 3,000 macro sites have 1Gbps fibre backhaul, said Yau, but they will need upgrading for increasing data usage, especially in the 5G age. “We will need to have more than 10Gbps backhaul,” he predicted, speculating that eventually backhaul will be 100Gbps.