Macau poised for full market liberalisation; government offers up two new wireline concessions

5 Jan 2012

The Macau government launched a tender to award two new fixed line telephony concessions on 1 January, as the country takes its final step towards full market liberalisation. According to the MacauHub website, sole fixed line incumbent Companhia de Telecomunicacoes de Macau (CTM) – which is co-owned by UK-based Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and Portuguese incumbent Portugal Telecom (PT) – is also set to have its existing wireline licence renewed following the tender. Although the new concessions are set to change hands in 1H12, the new licensees are not expected to be in a position to inaugurate their networks until 2013 – until which time they will be able to resell services over CTM’s network, and pay the established telco an undetermined fee.

According to majority owner CWC, at the end of 2010 (last available data) CTM had 178,000 fixed line customers, 132,000 broadband clients and 387,000 active mobile subscribers. Elsewhere, the cellco already competes with the likes of China Unicom, Hutchison Whampoa-owned 3 Macau and fellow Hong Kong-based firm SmarTone in the wireless sector. Macau is believed to be home to more than one million mobile subscribers, of which CTM is believed to hold the lion’s share.

Macau is situated on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, adjacent to mainland China, approximately 60km southwest of Hong Kong. It was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, becoming the first European settlement in the Far East in the process, but was handed back on 20 December 1999, and became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. The territory’s economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, but also includes some manufacturing.

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