Category: Broadband

Try again: Govt re-issues contract for fast broadband to islands

The Hong Kong government has re-issued the tender for rural broadband network construction in the outlying islands.

The original tender, issued last June, attracted no bidders.

Ofca is seeking a local fixed-line telecom company to build optical fibre links to the edge of rural villages in the four outlying islands – Lantau, Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau.

It also requires construction of three undersea fibre links – from Lamma to Hong Kong Island, Cheung Chau to Lantau, and Peng Chau to Lantau.

Currently, only Lantau has a fibre connection to Hong Kong island.

Ofca said the successful bidder would be required to make available up “at least half of the capacity” of the new infrastructure to other operators for free.

The tender is part of a HK$774 million government scheme to deliver high-speed broadband to 235 rural Hong Kong villages.

Govt calls tender for fast(ish) broadband across rural Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government has issued tenders for its scheme to subsidise construction of high-speed internet to rural Hong Kong villages.

The project aims to build fibre connections to 235 villages across rural Hong Kong, including around 50 villages in Lantau, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau.

It also calls for the construction of new submarine cable links from Lantau to Cheung Chau and Peng Chau and between Hong  Kong and Lamma islands.

But those in remote villages hungry for fast broadband may have to be patient.

The scheme, which is divided into six areas across the New Territories and the outlying islands, is not expected to complete until at least 2021.

It only funds the rollout of fibre cable to the “entrance” of each village. Residents will then have to wait for one of the local telecom operators – most likely PCCW or HGC – to run connections to individual households.

It also provides for a minimum download speed of 25Mbps – a fraction of the Hong Kong average of 173 Mbps. Users are most likely to receive a service applying DSL technology on the existing copper phone lines rather than high-speed fibre to the home.

According to Ofca:

The subsidy scheme will subsidise the selected FNOs to roll out lead-in connections to the vicinity of the entrances of the villages concerned.

The subsidy scheme will also subsidise the roll-out of three submarine cables connecting Lamma Island from Hong Kong Island, Cheung Chau from Lantau Island and Peng Chau from Lantau Island respectively.

To encourage competition, the network operators will be required to open up at least half of the capacity of the subsidised network facilities for use by other operators for free.

The plan to subsidise the cost of rural internet construction was foreshadowed by CE Carrie Lam in her January 2017 policy address.

In a paper to the Islands District Council last year, Ofca said that 300 of Hong Kong’s 750 rural villages had a broadband download speed of less than 10Mbps.

Ofca has identified 32 villages in South Lantau and 13 near Tung Chung that qualify for the scheme.

The tender is open to Hong Kong telecom operators holding a fixed network operator licence.

Bidders are asked to stipulate how much subsidy they will require, the level of broadband services and prices, and the construction timetable.

The tender closes on September 10.


Islands villages eligible for the scheme

Islands villages already connected by fibre

Govt to issue tenders for remote Lantau broadband

The Hong Kong government will issue tenders for the construction of fibre links to 45 Lantau villages – part of a new scheme to provide faster rural internet across Hong Kong.

Network operators will have to commit to building fibre connections to villages that will enable download speeds of at least 25 Mbps.

Within each village, residents will connect to the fibre backbone via the existing copper network using DSL technology. Currently PCCW’s combined fibre/DSL service offers downlinks of up 100Mbps.

The scheme to subsidise internet service was foreshadowed in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address last October.

It is a major departure from the government’s longstanding policy of leaving the telecom industry solely to the commercial operators.

The city is near the top of the world broadband rankings, but 170,000 people have a home or small business internet with download speed of less than 10Mbps.

The plan to bridge the city’s digital divide will not happen quickly, however.

Telecom regulator Ofca says services won’t start rolling out until 2021 at the earliest.

It will start discussions on funding with the Legco IT and Broadcasting Panel next month, the regulator said in a paper to the Islands District Council.

But it does not say how much it will seek for the subsidised rollout.

Ofca says 67 villages in the Islands District qualify for the programme.

Under the tender structure, they will be combined into six different project areas. Operators will be asked to bid on the six projects.

They will be assessed on on the speed of rollout, system design, pricing and the funding required.

According to Ofca, fibre backbones reach all of South Lantau’s major villages except Tai O

But 32 villages on South Lantau and 13 in the Tung Chung area have no fibre connections and will qualify for the scheme. They are:

MUI WO: Man Kok Tsui, Ngau Kwu Long, Pak Mong, Tai Ho, Wang Tong, Tung Wan Tau

SOUTH LANTAU/PUI O: Mong Tung Wan, San Shek Wan, Shap Long, Tai Long Wan

TAI O: Fan Lau, Kit Hing Back St, Kit Hing St, Lower Keung Shan, Upper Keung Shan, Luk Wu, Leung Uk,Nam Tong Sun Tsuen, Ngong Ping, San Tau, Sha Lo Wan, Sham Shek, Shek Tsai Po (East & West), Tai Long Wan, Tai O Outskirts, Tai O, Yi O

TUNG CHUNG: Chek Lap Kok New Village, Lam Che, Nim Yuen, Ma Wan New Village, Ma Wan Chung, Mok Ka, Ngau Au Village, Pa Mei, Shek Lau Po, Sheung Ling Pei, Tai Po, Tei Tung Tsai, Wong Nai Uk

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.

Govt cash for broadband plan catches industry attention

CE Carrie Lam’s promise to subsidise rural broadband could speed up the deployment of high-speed internet, but it is still too early to tell.

A senior HKT engineer told Lantau News the company was interested in the proposal outlined in Lam’s October 11 policy address, but government officials had been unable to add any detail.

Most likely no more information will emerge until the budget is handed down in February, an assistant to IT sector legislator Charles Mok said.

Lam said her plan would cover “about 380 villages currently without high-speed” coverage and would benefit nearly 170,000 people.

Hong Kong ranks near the top in global broadband speeds in most surveys. In the Speedtest Global Index it places second behind Singapore with peak speed of 145Mbps.

But until 18 months ago South Lantau residents went online via HKT’s old copper network, with most people receiving no more than 4-5Mbps downlinks and many even less.

That began to change last year when a new firm, Top Express, began building a fibre network in Mui Wo.

Today some Mui Wo villages have access to the Top Express fibre – with HGC as service provider – which can deliver 500Mbps or 1Gbps on the downlink.

The arrival of the new player appears to have jolted HKT into action as well. It has upgraded its copper network to a newer technology, VDSL, which offers 100Mbps service, in Mui Wo, Pui O, Ham Tin, Tong Fuk and Shui Hau.

Top Express also said it would install fibre in Tong Fuk this year, but a company executive said this week that had been delayed until 2018.

The HKT engineer said the company wanted to explore using wireless technologies to connect some of the hard-to-reach villages. Current 4G technology is now reaching top speeds of 1Gbps and the coming era of 5G is promising to increase that tenfold.

For remote Lantau villages such as Sham Wat and Tai Long Wan, wireless would be a faster and less expensive option than fibre, he said.

Lam promises Lantau conservation cash and a start on Shek Kwu Chau

Cash for local conservation projects, a solar power trial and the start of work on the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator top the list of measures affecting Lantau in Carrie Lam’s first policy address.

Lam announced she would make available funding for “countryside conservation initiatives” in areas of Lantau, including Pui O, Tai O and Shui Hau. She said the government would

The Environment and Conservation Fund is a government body, set up in the mid-90s, which in its last funding round in 2013 was granted $5 billion.

A new body, the Countryside Conservation Office, may also be a source of funds for Lantau conservation. It has a $1 billion kitty and a brief to “co-ordinate conservation projects that promote sustainable development of remote countryside.”

Another green project on the drawing board is the implementation of large-scale floating solar farms on the surface of Shek Pik and a dozen other Hong Kong reservoirs, following successful trials at Shek Pik and Plover Cove.

The project with possibly the biggest impact on South Lantau in the coming years could be is the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator – officially known as ‘the integrated waste management facilities.’ Work on the project, just one kilometre off Lantau’s south coast, is due to get underway soon.

The EPD issued a tender for the $21 billion project last December. Lam said the government intended to

Complete the tendering exercise and commence the design and construction works for the phase 1 project of the Integrated Waste Management Facilities for [municipal solid waste] treatment.

As reported earlier, most Lantau commuters will likely qualify for the planned fare subsidy scheme.

In other initiatives:

* A “district cooling system” is under consideration for the new development projects at Tung Chung and the HK-Macau bridge landing zone. A district cooling system is a centralised system of chilled pipes that can cool multiple buildings.

* Lam confirmed the government would go ahead with a review of the city’s heavily-subsidised ferry services, including the possibility of extending the licensing period or even offering subsidies for vessel replacement.

* The CE said she would encourage “the extension of optical fibre networks to villages in rural and remote areas.” Currently 117,000 people in 380 villages lacked access to high-speed fibre, Lam said.


Photo (top): Pui O – ready for conservation?

Lantau internet: More fibre on its way

South Lantau’s internet is finally starting to catch up to the rest of Hong Kong, with more fibre connectivity promised.

Telco HGC and partner Top Express have just launched a high-speed fibre service in the Mui Wo villages of Luk Tei Tong, Tai Tei Tung and Pak Ngan Heung and are now targeting Cheung Sha, Tong Fuk and Pui O.

They have letterboxed households in those areas offering 1000 Mbps for HK$358 per month, with the first six months free. However, their estimate of November 30 2017 service start is likely ambitious. Top Express’s initial offer in Mui Wo, in January last year, promised start of service by May 2016 – a year ahead of actual delivery.

While optical fibre is accessible to 84% of Hong Kong households, according to PCCW, much of rural Hong Kong is still serviced by early generation copper networks, delivering effective downlink speeds of about 5Mbps.

Top Express, a specialist in building utility infrastructure, says it plans to extend optical fibre to 600 of the SAR’s 774 villages and lease out the capacity to a telecom service provider.

For most of South Lantau, PCCW is the sole fixed network operator. It upgraded its network in Ham Tin, Pui O and Tong Fuk last year to provide 100 Mbps down/30Mbps up.

It is also promised to bring fibre to Mui Wo as part of its rural Hong Kong upgrade programme, but has offered no specifics.

In a statement emailed to Lantau News, HGC said it “has been exploring different ways to extend high-speed and reliable residential broadband network service to outlying islands and village houses.”

Photo (above): Nokia Networks



Yes, high-speed broadband is spreading to the islands

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.

890-9080_IMGThe 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

Anonymous banners getting govt message out on Lantau development

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. )

IMG_20160429_132331‘Support Lantau Development: Cut ferry ticket prices’ – Mui Wo roundabout Continue reading

Rethinking Lantau development

Sunset Pui O

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