DoCoMo ends 20-year pact with Hutchison as it sets up 5G lab in Guam

01 April 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has ended a 20-year partnership with Hong Kong’s Hutchison by selling its stake in the unit that runs Three HK and Three Macau.

Meanwhile DoCoMo has turned its attention to Guam, setting up a lab to develop 5G applications.

Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings (HTHKH), the telecoms division of the CK Hutchison group, said today that it is buying out DoCoMo’s stake in HTCL, the unit that owns the mobile businesses in Hong Kong and Macau.

Hutch said: “The contract was signed today and the actual transfer of shares will take place in May 2019.”

HTHKH is the unit that in 2017 sold its Hutchison Global Communications business to US investor I Squared Capital (ISQ) for $1.9 billion. The wholesale unit is now HGC Global Communications.

NTT DoCoMo gave no reason for deciding to sell its stake in Hutch. The relationship dates back to December 1999, when DoCoMo took a 19% strategic interest in HTCL for US $410 million. In today’s deal, HTHKH paid just US $60 million for what had become a 24.1% stake in the mobile business.

Seven years later, in 2006, Hutch licensed DoCoMo’s pioneering mobile internet service, i-mode, in a move that pre-dated today’s widespread use of mobile apps. Three HK and Three Macau both launched i-mode services on 2G and 3G networks after the deal.

Meanwhile DoCoMo announced that is has set up a 5G test network in the US Pacific territory of Guam and is working with US and Israeli companies to develop services using the next generation of mobile technology.

Partners in the 5G Open Lab Guam include Guam Power Authority, the University of Guam Office of Information Technology and major enterprises and organisations.

They will test “various solutions that incorporate 5G’s extra-high-speed, large-capacity and low-latency technologies”, said DoCoMo, “including a remote training system using high-definition virtual reality, a monitoring system using AI surveillance cameras to detect suspicious individuals, and many others”.