There’s been a bit happening in the world of islands broadband.
In Lantau the big news is that Top Express has finally started rolling out fibre in Mui Wo.
The company suddenly appeared at the start of the year promising service by May. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen but it now advises it will complete installation in Pak Ngan Heung and Tai Tei Tong by Sept 30 and Luk Tei Tong by Nov 30.
Top Express didn’t give a reason for the delay but most likely it was difficulty in getting access to villages.
The company is not, by the way, a telecom service provider. Its core business is building infrastructure for Hong Kong utilities, and its expertise is getting rights of way and building trenches rather than selling broadband bundles. It has all of the local telcos except HKT as customers. Continue reading
A series of banners promoting the government’s ‘develop Lantau’ message have popped up all over South Lantau in the last three days. The unusual feature is that no one has put their name to them.
What’s also unusual is that, unlike the government grand plan that includes inflatable water toys, cable cars and artificial islands, these messages include practical ideas that could improve people’s lives, like better internet and a functioning sewage system.
That said, these promotions are on the same page with the government on conservation, with one banner asserting that environmental protection should not take precedence over development.
Photos and translations of ten of the banners below.
(UPDATE: One Pui O resident posted on a local Facebook page that she’d seen former Islands District Councillor Rainbow Wong hanging the banners. Wong was the preferred Rural Committee representative for a decade until the local powerbrokers threw their weight behind Randy Yu at last year’s election. )
‘Support Lantau Development: Cut ferry ticket prices’ – Mui Wo roundabout Continue reading
Highlights from submission to the Development Bureau (full submission here).
No Vision, No Data, No Conservation
The decision-making process on Lantau’s future appears to be explicitly designed to exclude community input. From day one LanDAC membership has been almost wholly drawn from the real estate, tourist and logistics industries, along with government political supporters and appointees. The public rightly doubts the genuineness of this ‘consultation.’
The government plan offers no vision for the island: what will it be like to visit, live or work in Lantau in 2026, 2036 or beyond? The report doesn’t say. At the same time it tries to micro-manage tourist development in ways that are counter-productive. Continue reading
High-speed internet via fibre connections to the home is on its way to South Lantau – but not from PCCW.
Local firm Top Express, which specialises in building infrastructure such as telecom networks and electricity grids, has invited residents of Mui Wo villages Tai Tei Tong, Luk Tei Tong and Pak Ngan Hang to register for the home broadband service. The company says it plans to cover all Mui Wo villages, with service to start as soon as May.
The broadband service will be delivered by Top Express partner HGC, part of the Hutchison Telecom Group, delivering bandwidth of 1 Gbps for both download and upload.
Elsewhere on Lantau, fast broadband has arrived at Ham Tin, but not with fibre. Residents now have access to 100Mbps downstream using vectoring technology over PCCW’s copper network.
Optical fibre is in place in Cheung Sha to service current residents and the new White Sands project, but has not yet been activated.
PCCW has developed an internal plan to build fibre networks to most households on the four outlying islands, but it has yet to be approved. Lantau Confidential has reached out to PCCW for comment.
UPDATE: PCCW says the Ham Tin “speed upgrade project,” providing up to 100M/30M for download/upload, is a pilot program and it is considering further trials elsewhere. “The response from these pilot programs will provide some insight for our future planning,” the company said in an email.
Yesterday (October 14th) the Islands Broadband Concern Group attended an informal background briefing from HKT’s Netvigator engineering and marketing teams on the islands broadband services.
During the briefing there was a sense that we are pushing at a slightly open door, and that within HKT there is an awareness of a need to deliver the kind of service customers on the islands today expect.
But bear in mind that their internal process as well as any future network upgrade will take time.
The IBCG’s own efforts to get improvements to remote areas broadband will also take time. This is just an early step and there are quite a few more people and organisations we need to talk to.
The SCMP gave the islands’ broadband problem a run today with this story:
The Post had been alerted by Merrin Pearse’s complaint at the PCCW Facebook page after his home broadband speed had sunk to an abysmal 250 kbps.
The photo in the story was taken outside the Mui Wo library, where the WiFi network registered an equally pathetic 870 kbps. Merrin’s time spent on taking the broadband pulse of local institutions – with predictable results – reminds us that this not a problem of people missing out on fast movie downloads but of communities being disadvantaged. With advanced broadband local students would not be left behind, residents would be able to access remote health services and more business and employment opportunities would open up. Continue reading
Hong Kong’s digital divide is so wide that the outlying islands internet service barely qualifies as broadband.
A survey by the Islands Broadband Concern Group survey has found that the average broadband downlink on the islands is just 4.59 Mbps – less than one-twentieth of the SAR average of 92.6 Mbps (NB: I set up the ISCG and conducted the survey). Akamai, the company behind the State of the Internet reports that list broadband speeds around the world, has declared broadband to be 4 Mbps and above, with high-speed broadband starting at 10 Mbps.
The online survey also confirmed widespread unhappiness over the residential broadband service: 82% of respondents were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied; just 8% were satisfied.
Now this isn’t a scientific survey, but it does bring some credible figures that will be difficult for the operator and the government to shrug off. Continue reading
The average broadband downlink on Lantau and other Hong Kong islands is somewhere south of 7 Mbps. That’s not even a tenth of the city’s average download rate of 84.6 Mbps; the actual rate in fact is probably closer to one-twentieth. The 7 Mbps is the theoretical maximum on the PCCW service and is so far below the notion of acceptable broadband to the rest of Hong Kong that the company doesn’t even list it on its website.
It’s no surprise why this is so, PCCW-HKT is a de facto monopoly on Hong Kong’s outlying islands, where it is not viable for any other broadband company to build a network. Both HGC and HKBN and have assured me of that.
The telecoms sector traditionally deals with this through a universal service obligation (USO), which guarantees provision of uneconomic but essential services. Hong Kong actually has a USO, but it just covers voice. Basic telephony is simple – you either have a working phone or you don’t.
But broadband isn’t just broadband. You can get HKBN’s 1Gbps symmetric service for HK$476, and PCCW’s minimum published rate is 100 Mbps for $598. Then there is the service delivered to residents of South Lantau and the other islands. Continue reading