Hong Kong's PCCW Sues Regulator over 3G Spectrum Claw-Back Plans
Published on: 17th Feb 2014
By: Ian Mansfield
Hong Kong's largest mobile network operator PCCW is suing the telecoms regulator to block a plan that will see a third of the country's 3G spectrum clawed back and resold.
The regulator announced the decision last November, following a contentious public consultation, and while it accepted there would be some impact on the quality of the mobile networks, it refuted the claims of widespread disruption that they predicted.
The regulator's purpose in clawing back some of the 3G spectrum is to auction it off to a new entrant, adding a fifth network to the already saturated market.
The auction is due to take place in late 2016 when the existing licenses expire.
There have however been allegations that as the Chinese network, China Mobile would bid for the 3G spectrum, that the decision was pushed onto the Hong Kong regulators by the Chinese government, although the regulator denies that.
Now, PCCW has decided to turn to the courts to prevent the spectrum seizure, arguing that there was a legitimate expectation that its license would be renewed in full in 2016.
"By forcing HKT to surrender part of its 3G spectrum holdings rather than renewing HKT's licence in full … the authority has frustrated HKT's and PCCW's substantive legitimate expectation of licence renewal," the company said in its filing.
PCCW, through its HKT subsidiary is also currently seeking approval to buy its smaller rival, CSL from Australia's Telstra. That would consolidate the market to three networks, and may actually make it easier for the regulator to argue in favour of allowing a new entrant into the market after all.