3 Hong Kong aims to be in 5G vanguard

Hutchison Telecom expects its Hong Kong operator to be in the forefront of 5G adoption and to launch commercial services by 2020.

Cliff Woo, CEO of 3 Hong Kong, told LightReading: “According to what the experts have said the standard will only be finalized in late 2018 or early 2019. We have to take the final product/spec for manufacturing, including the chipset and handset, so that will take another 12 months. So we think probably the year 2020.”

He expects the initial 5G-specific band in the country to be 3.5 GHz, although regulator OFCA is also looking at 26 GHz and 28 GHz for early-stage 5G allocations.

Hong Kong would join Japan, China, Korea and the US in targeting 5G launch in or before 2020, maintaining a pattern of early roll-out which saw it in the first wave of 4G deployers too, going live in late 2010.

The operator is working closely with Huawei both on 4G enhancement and 5G trials. By the end of this year, it plans to support five-carrier aggregation, which would combine spectrum in 1.8 GHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz, plus two carriers in the 2.3 GHz TDD band, to achieve peak downlink speed of 1.2Gbps. Before that, it will deploy four-carrier aggregation in mid-2017 to boost data rates to 500Mbps per user, along with 4×4 MIMO and 256QAM.

The company is also testing 128 x 128 Massive MIMO in a field trial in the Causeway Bay shopping district, using the unpaired 2.3 GHz spectrum, and says this has delivered a sixfold increase in throughput.

And it is deploying Huawei’s CloudEdge technology on its core network and starting to extend that to CloudRAN too. It also says it plans to adopt the Chinese vendor’s innovative CloudAIR flexible spectrum technology.

Woo added: “As we move towards the 5G and IoT era, 3 Hong Kong is actively deploying 5G technologies and upgrading its existing network architecture. In addition to using CA technology with 5CC, we have conducted research and carried out trials for various technologies, such as small cell installations, network cloudification, NFV and Massive MIMO towards the 5G era. These efforts will enable the timely launch of services to meet market demand as soon as the 5G  standard and Hong Kong’s spectrum plans are confirmed.”