You now need a license to run an LPWA IoT network in Hong Kong

Hong Kong IoT HKT
Image credit: TZIDO SUN /

Hong Kong’s independent telecoms regulator announced it has created a new licensing regime for wireless low power wide area (LPWA) IoT networks using the shared 920-925 MHz frequency band.

The Communications Authority (CA) said that wireless IoT licenses – which are intended for services supporting automated M2M type data communications – will be good for five years and may be extended for up to five more years.

A CA spokesperson said that the regulator created the new IoT licenses with “a view to underpinning the preparation of Hong Kong for embracing IoT and 5G mobile services, as well as various smart city applications in the future.”

The CA also said it opted for a less stringent and less costly licensing regime for LPWA networks (compared to current carrier licenses) to facilitate the development of IoT services:

“With the emergence of new generations of wireless and mobile technologies, massive implementation of IoT will become the trend. Hong Kong must prepare itself to keep up with this global trend. The CA, after consulting the industry via the advisory committee of the Office of the Communications Authority, decided to establish a new licensing regime to respond to the market development and the industry’s requests in a timely manner.”

Various companies have been making plans for LPWA-based IoT networks in Hong Kong. Sigfox operator Thinxtra has been making plans to extend its network to Hong Kong since last year. In August it launched its first Sigfox base stations at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP) to enable tenants to conduct IoT R&D. Last month, Thinxtra officially launched its Hong Kong network, saying it plans to deploy 100 base stations across the city by March 2018.

In June, local firm Pixel Networks announced it was building a public LoRa network for IoT services in partnership with Actility.

The CA first proposed creating a license for LPWA networks using the 920-925 MHz band in August [PDF]. The unlicensed band is already used for short-range devices like sensors and RFID. The CA said that with companies now intending to use the band for creating city-wide LPWA networks, it was necessary to create a licensing regime to regulate such rollouts.

It also enables the CA to generate some more revenue for the government. Each license comes with an annual fixed fee of HK$100,000 (around $12,900), plus variable fees based on the number of base stations and wireless IoT devices in use. The annual fee is relatively modest, but the additional fees based on the quantity of base stations and devices (the latter of which will be substantial) are likely to add up.

The CA also noted that the new licenses don’t amount to exclusive use of the band – it’s still classified as shared spectrum, so LPWA licensees will have to find ways to ensure they can co-exist on the band.

The CA also said that the new LPWA licenses don’t cover IoT services such as NB-IoT or LTE Cat-M1 offered over cellular networks – those will be covered under existing mobile operator licenses.

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