PCCW exclusively offers “Google WiFi” in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT), a subsidiary of PCCW, has taken the extraordinary step of signing up Google WiFi exclusively for its 2.5 million broadband homes.

HKT will bundle this offer with its Netvigator broadband lines going forward, instead of charging extra for WiFi, a practice which in the past has driven most customers to buy their own Linksys or Netgear device or better still, a cheaper local brand.

Part of the rationale is to cut the number of help desk calls which relate to WiFi behaving badly. HKT mostly has fiber to each home, many of which are built into tower blocks with something like 75% of broadband customers living in MDUs (multi-dwelling units). The new Google WiFi must be engineer installed, and will come with a minimum of 2 Google WiFi Access Points.

These rely on a Qualcomm IPQ4019 chip, which as we understand it is a dual mode, wave 2, 802.11ac MU-MIMO chip which also has an extra 5 GHz radio on board – so one 5GHz radio is for dedicated backhaul between radios and it comes meshing software. The other channel can talk to 5GHz devices. It also has a 2.4 GHz channel which extends reach.

The chip also supports band steering – pushing devices to the right channel, and client steering, pushing the client to the right AP.

MU-MIMO was invented so that an AP could cope with 10 or 15 devices, sharing them across 4 separate streams. But by allocating two 5.0 GHz channels, especially if they are 160 MHz wide, this means that your neighbor’s Home Gateway will have even fewer clear channels to work with and this will have the potential to create more interference, especially in an MDU, although that will only emerge as there are widespread installations of this device. We suspect that at first this chip will use two 80 MHz wide 5 GHz channels rather than one 160 MHz channel.

Most Hong Kong MDUs are built from reinforced concrete, and have a terrible time working with single AP systems, with lots of dead spots – which PCCW claims this system eliminates completely.

PCCW says that customers will get onsite maintenance and 24-hour helpdesk support and it calls the service “King of Coverage.” It will be particularly keen that this is good at handling video because PCCW offers both its Now TV IPTV service and its Viu OTT SVoD service, which has been growing rapidly. Vui users are likely to watch on a portable device, which needs to stay in touch using WiFi, as customers move from room to room.

Prior to using Google, PCCW used products from Huawei, but it has not got these facilities built into a product as yet, and they are due in its next generation products. More and more operators who move to 1 Gbps service levels are going to need to buy into more stable, higher performing WiFi  service, in order for customers to see the benefits of the higher broadband speeds.

Customers who use FTTH Netvigator can get Google WiFi free if they commit to a 30-month period.

Mr. Ringo Ng, Managing Director of HKT’s Consumer Group, said, “Coupled with HKT’s fiber-rich broadband network and expertise in home networking consultancy and implementation, ‘Google Wifi’ can bring to customers the ultimate Wi-Fi experience through blanket coverage of the entire home regardless of its size and configuration.”

This is one of the first “exclusive” deals that Google has struck for its WiFi product, but it makes sense in territories where one ISP is dominant, as with PCCW, and we would expect it to consider more deals of this type, putting even greater pressure on Technicolor, Arris, Alcatel and Huawei.