Hong Kong cellco SmarTone launched its long-awaited 3G network yesterday, following a strategy of targeting high end customers whom it hopes will pay up to HKD5,680 for a new handset. Initially just two 3G handsets, the Motorola E1000 and the Nokia 6630 costing HKD4,680 and HKD5,680 respectively, are on offer but SmarTone plans to up this tally to eight in the first half of 2005. These additional models will include the Sanyo S103 and the Sharp SX813, both of which will be exclusive to SmarTone. Launched under the brandname iN, SmarTone is offering 3G packages at between HKD128 and HKD368 a month; the top end tariff gives customers an inclusive 130 videocall minutes.
Hutchison had been Hong Kong’s sole 3G provider until SmarTone’s launch, but competition will intensify further following today’s launch by rival Hong Kong CSL. According to a press release from Telstra-backed CSL, just a single handset will be available over the CSL network, the Nokia 6630, although this will be able to operate seamlessly over both CSL’s 3G and EDGE networks. UMTS coverage initially includes the the major commercial centres, university campuses, the Hong Kong International Airport and along the Airport Express Railway, but will be expanded to cover the entire region. Like SmarTone, CSL is offering two 3G packages costing HKD208 and HKD338 per month; the price for the Nokia handset has been set at HKD3,588 for the cheaper package and HKD2,688 for the higher.
The first to market, Hutchison Telephone Company’s 3, launched its W-CDMA service almost a year ago, and at the end of September was reported to have around 200,000 customers. Sunday, Hong Kong’s fourth 3G licensee, expects to launch services in April 2005.