Govt-backed rural broadband likely to roll out in 2019

Government-backed broadband services could be available to rural Hong Kong residents as early as the second half of next year.

The government expects to issue a tender for subsidised rural fibre deployment in the first half of 2019, Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau said today.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam promised the cash support for rural and remote broadband in her October policy address,

The announcement, a shift in policy from the government’s long-held non-interventionist approach, followed complaints from New Territories and Islands residents that with only one broadband provider the competition policy wasn’t working.

In a written response to Legco, Yau said subsidies would be provided “to fixed network operators to encourage the extension of fibre-based network to villages in remote areas.”

Industry regulator Ofca had begun work on the scheme, he said. It will report progress to Legco in May and will later seek funding approval from the Finance Committee.

Yau said tendering work will commence in the first half of 2019.

His response to Legco IT industry member Charles Mok was the first time any details of the scheme had been made public,

However, Yau did not say which villages would qualify for the scheme, how much it would cost, or whether the government would subsidise fibre rollout within remote villages as well as connecting to them.

But he did say he expected the additional fibre would boost mobile network capacity.

Upon completion of the project with fibre-based networks extended to villages in these remote areas, [mobile network operators] can make use of the fibre-based networks to install new base stations, thereby enhancing the mobile coverage and capacity in these areas.

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