Three years later, HKTV finally cleared for mobile TV

Protesters at HK government HQ protest against the HKTV licensing decision on October 20, 2013. Image credit: LingHK /

HKTV is back in the broadcasting business – sort of – after Hong Kong’s independent regulator issued an amended mobile TV license to its mobile TV unit, HKMTV, that allows it to change its transmission technology from DTMB to DVB-T2 Lite.

Background: In 2013, HKTV – founded by self-styled telecoms maverick Ricky Wong – failed to attain one of the new TV broadcast licenses being issued by the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA). The decision was highly controversial, and Wong cried foul over the process – not least because HKTV had already invested in numerous TV productions for its TV channel.

Wong launched HKTV as an OTT video service in 2014, but also decided to launch HKTV using the mobile TV license he had purchased from China Mobile Hong Kong, but the CA blocked that move because that license doesn’t allow broadcasts to TVs in the home unless the number of homes reached is less than 5,000. More to the point, because CMHK’s mobile TV service used DTMB (Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast) – a digital standard for regular free-to-air TV – HKTV couldn’t guarantee that only mobile devices would use the service.

Wong sued the government over the FTA license decision and the CA over the mobile TV license ruling, but ultimately lost both.

Since the 2015 mobile TV court decision, according to the CA, HKMTV has been meeting with the CA to work out a way to switch from DTMB to DVB-T2 (the terrestrial version of the DVB satellite broadcast standard) – specifically, the T2 Lite profile for mobile TV broadcasts.

Last month, HKTV submitted a finalized technical proposal detailing the transmission arrangements, system parameters and the technical specs for implementing T2 Lite in a manner that complies with CA regulations and the 2015 court ruling.

The CA approved the proposal on Thursday and issued an amended mobile TV license to HKMTV, clearing the way for the broadcaster to make the tech switch and launch mobile TV services using the 8 MHz of spectrum it’s already been assigned.

Under the new license, HKMTV will implement T2 Lite within the next 12 months, although it will have to meet a plethora of conditions before it launches commercial services, to include encrypting all TV program signals to ensure that its service can only be accessed by portable or mobile devices and receivers authorized by the CA for mobile TV services, and making sure its encryption system is strong enough to prevent unauthorized access (and has a system in place to detect it).

HKMTV will have to demonstrate to the CA that its proposed encryption mechanism, mobile receiving devices and conditional access/parental lock features all work as planned before it can launch service. It will also have to demonstrate that its transmitting equipment won’t interfere with other broadcasting/telecommunications services.

The new license is good until the spectrum expires at the end of August 2025. The CA reminded HKMTV that renewal wouldn’t be automatic or guaranteed, although after all Wong has gone through to get this far, he likely doesn’t need reminding.

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