According to reports in the local press, the Macau telecoms regulator is preparing to launch a tender for the Special Autonomous Region’s (SAR’s) last 3G licence in May. The No. 10/2009 Administrative Order published this week approved the open tender for Macau’s fourth 3G licence. CTM, Hutchison and China Telecom each secured 3G concessions in 2006, while SmarTone and Kong Seng Paging were passed over. According to the government’s timetable, existing 3G operators’ 2G networks must be switched off in 2012 at the latest; the 2G licences of Hong Kong-owned Hutchison and UK/Portuguese-backed CTM were amended to run until 8 July 2012 (an extension of two years from the previous expiry date of July 2010). SmarTone’s 2G concession in Macau was also due to expire on 8 July 2010, but earlier this year the government extended the date by six years to 2016 (non-renewable); however if SmarTone is successful in the 3G auction, it too will have its 2G concession amended to expire on 8 July 2012. Deputy director of the Telecommunications Regulation Bureau (DSRT), Hoi Chi Leong, said in a press conference that the launch of the last 3G licence was prompted by the increasing popularity of high speed wireless services. Hoi said there were about 230,000 mobile phone owners using 3G networks in the SAR at the end of 2008, representing a market share of 25%.
The open tender will look at criteria such as bidders’ experience, financial status, technological capabilities, service charges as well as service commitments. The DSRT deputy director said at least two companies from mainland China and Hong Kong had expressed interest in participating. However, he said that there was no necessity to issue the last 3G licence, adding that even if there was only one candidate for the tender, it would still need to meet all requirements in order to be granted the licence. The licence will be issued for a period of eight years and may be renewed for no more than a further eight years, subject to the market conditions. The deadline for handing in a tender proposal to the DSRT is at 5pm on 30 April 2009.