Hong Kongs Sets Internet Plans


Hong Kong -- Monopoly pay TV provider Cable TV is
set to launch a broadband-Internet service here by midsummer.

Wharf Holdings Inc., Cable TV's owners, wants to
start a test of its "i-Cable" service to 40,000 homes in the Ma On
Shan area by August.

Construction of a fiber optic cable system
enabling homes in Ma On Shan to receive Cable TV's service has just been

Cable TV has 400,000 subscribers, with around
180,000 connected to its fiber optic network. The remainder receive the service
through microwave relays.

Cable TV managing director Stephen Ng Tin-hoi
said the operator could roll out the service to 450,000 homes in its first year
of operation, reaching all of Hong Kong's 1.7 million homes by mid-2002.

However, Wharf is not currently permitted to
offer Internet services. The Ma On Shan trial would use cable modems to reach
individual homes.

Cable TV multimedia-services director Billy Tam
said i-Cable would allow Internet speeds of 8 megabits per second -- 700 times
faster than conventional dial-up access, and 25 times faster than rival Hongkong
Telecom's broadband-Internet service.

Government officials are currently working out a
timetable for implementing the liberalization of broadcasting and
telecommunications policies agreed upon over the past nine months.

The new policies would permit the rollout of
i-Cable, but they would also mean the end of Cable TV's pay monopoly.

Wharf is aiming for a penetration rate of between
10 percent and 15 percent of homes passed for i-Cable, Tam added.

He declined to comment specifically on i-Cable
costs, on potential content providers or on whether Wharf plans to offer
video-on-demand and telephony as part of the service.