Mobile telecommunications is an industry where it’s important to keep a step ahead of the game – it’s a case of survival of the smartest and fastest, and in today’s world, consumers expect nothing less.
Sean Lee, Director and CEO of China Mobile Hong Kong (CMHK), believes the future has arrived and that future is 5G. Sean is working to ensure that his company is leading this new generation of mobile communications in Hong Kong.
CMHK is a wholly owned subsidiary of parent company China Mobile Communications Corporation (CMCC), a Chinese state-owned telecommunications corporation with the world’s largest customer base. Originally branded the PEOPLES Telephone Company, in 1997 the company was the first mobile operator to launch personal communication services (PCS) in Hong Kong. Rebranded to China Mobile Hong Kong in 2008, the company today is one of the largest mobile operators in Hong Kong’s rapidly growing market.
In fact, in 2016, the number of mobile service subscribers in Hong Kong represented one of the highest penetration rates in the world at more than 228%. Sean was appointed to the role of CEO of CMHK in 2011, bringing with him a rich background in information technology, product development and contracts management across a number of multinational corporations including Reuters South East Asia and Canadian Airlines International. He has watched the telecommunications industry transform exponentially since.
“Back in the 2G era, almost all the mobile service plans were highly priced with limited local airtime. There were some plans charging HK$400 (about US$50) for only a small amount of local call airtime,” Sean remembers. “We transformed the industry by offering low-priced service plans. By doing this, we lowered the threshold for mobile network services and made it more accessible to consumers.”
This was a significant milestone for both CMHK and the telecommunications industry in Hong Kong, and one that Sean is proud of. “CMHK is visionary in the mobile communications market and committed to offering quality and affordable services,” Sean states. “This aligns with my personal beliefs and I’m proud to say we’ve always succeeded in achieving this.”
“We believe in the concept, ‘4G changed lives, 5G will change society.’”
In 2014, CMHK became the first service provider in Hong Kong to provide a 4G data roaming service in Mainland China, creating a new era for cross-border mobile services. CMHK also pioneered the launch of the Bay Area Service Plan in 2017, providing customers with data and greater connectivity across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. However, from all the achievements of the company, Sean is most excited by the launch of 5G technology and the opportunities it will create.
“We believe in the concept, ‘4G changed lives, 5G will change society,’” he says. “5G is a game-changer. It will not only provide consumers with data services, but it will also create a foundation for smart city applications.
“High network speed, low latency and high capacity will support 5G network applications such as autonomous vehicles, intelligent robots in manufacturing and warehouse operations, and enhanced live streaming quality. The potential of 5G is endless.”
With the government announcing that the 5G spectrum auction will take place in late 2019, Hong Kong mobile network operators will compete for a share of the spectrum, enabling them to launch their 5G services from the second quarter of 2020. “Our key focus over the next 12 to 18 months is to promote 5G network development,” Sean explains. “We aim to become the first mobile network operator to launch a 5G network service in Hong Kong.”
The 5G+ Project is a major initiative by parent company CMCC and includes three main targets, which CMHK is supporting in Hong Kong. “We will continue to complement the existing 4G network with 5G infrastructure to ensure we meet demand for data and voice messaging services,” he says. “We are also committed to promoting the development of 5G technologies along with new communication technologies – artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data and edge computing.
“5G+ AICDE is very important to the future growth of CMHK,” Sean states. “5G+ Ecosystem will also create ecosystems to support the digitalisation of lives for Hong Kong citizens.” The China Mobile 5G Innovation Centre Hong Kong Open Lab enables the company to accelerate the 5G+ Project and showcase 5G technology to the public.
Through this intense period of transformation, strong and cohesive leadership is imperative. “My management style mirrors the core values of the ‘TRY Culture’ of our parent company China Mobile, which are based on mutual trust, responsibility and care,” Sean reflects.
“I believe in my team, respect their opinions and am open-minded. We invest in our employees by providing opportunities for furthering education, support and incentives. This approach contributes
to my team wanting to do their best and work together for the success of our business.”
The company’s ICT Programme and Graduate Trainee Programme are examples of CMHK’s commitment to its team and drive to providing professional skill-set training and market-leading ICT knowledge. “This approach also extends to relationships with our partners,” Sean explains. “We create ongoing collaborations and synergies with our business suppliers and IT service providers so we’re all working towards the same outcome.
“Our long-term partnership with Comba Telecom for indoor coverage solutions is an important relationship built on trust and idea sharing, which has created a valuable and strategic win–win for both our organisations,” he says. “We respect and acknowledge the role that our supply chain partnerships play in developing and maintaining the operational excellence of CMHK.”
In this period of change, where responsive short-term strategies are the norm, CMHK differentiates itself by making longer-term investments in technology and infrastructure. “Our philosophy of business management helps us to stand out from the rest of the market,” Sean suggests. “As CMHK is not a listed company in Hong Kong, we can focus on long-term return whereas our listed competitors may need to focus on short-term profitability.
“Our belief and passion help us stand out from our competitors.”
“5G network development is an example of considerable network infrastructure investment with minimal short-term returns,” he says. “But we believe the return on investment for 5G will not take long. Our belief and passion help us stand out from our competitors.”
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