The Internet Sucks in Hong Kong Villages

I’ve been living in small villages for 5-1/2 years now. For five of those years I could get a bullshit PCCW dsl line that was advertised at 8 megabits per second but in reality topped out at 5 for a higher price than people on HK island pay for a 1 gigabit per second line. Now I live in a place where PCCW can’t even figure out how to get a wire to.

Anyway, one of my readers sent me this link to this ATV World Inside Story episode that does a very good job of covering the issue. Only PCCW wires the villages, they have no competition, so they offer shitty service at a high price.  The report mentions that HK Broadband is willing to wire some of the villages but is having a difficult time getting government permits to tear up the roads to lay cables. I’m sure the government has no interest in helping the son of the richest man in Hong Kong maintain his monopoly on this service. (cough, cough)

As the story says, many people resort to using mobile internet – it doesn’t mention 3G and 4G USB modems as an alternative to tethering with a mobile phone, and also doesn’t mention how horrible the mobile coverage can be in many villages, though there is a demonstration of why the signal is often erratic. But when it works – about 75% of the time – I’m getting speeds with my 4G USB modem from SmarTone that are about twice as fast as I’d get with a landline from PCCW. (It seems that out here in the boonies SmarTone and China Mobile have the best coverage.)

The problem isn’t only villages – older buildings in Kowloon and on Hong Kong island also apparently aren’t wired with fiber optic. The story shows one business in a tenement where internet speeds are so slow that employees have to wait till they go home to upload or download business related files.

The story also makes a point that there are issues even with new buildings. Most of the telecom companies in Hong Kong are owned or partially owned by the real estate developers. So when they put up a new building, they make it easy for their own company to get in and throw up roadblocks for the competition. And this is legal.

They also state that the Office of the Telecommunications Authority says that HKT (owned by PCCW) is “obliged to provide basic services to everyone.” But apparently that obligation isn’t enforced. I live in a house that’s at least 3 years old that receives no basic services.

I have this crazy idea – the government should wire all the villages with fiber. The government should then offer equal access to all the telecom companies to this network and charge them access and usage fees. With every telecom having access to this network, there would be real competition, leading to lower prices and better service.

Is this idea really so insane? It must be. So far I’ve written to two Legco members and not received any response.


11 thoughts on “The Internet Sucks in Hong Kong Villages”

  1. Congrats, you’ve just invented Australia’a NBN, which is becoming a major issue this year (federal election coming up).

  2. Living in Boonies:
    Pros: Cheaper rent and bigger spaces
    Cons: Transportation to downtown, internet access
    Average building in HK has over 240 apartments, Boonies has two to three level houses per lot, more piracy in Boonies (sharing internet access), separate fiber cable for each house (takes up to 4 hours for setting up Fiber per households once the cable is at your door and the Fiber cables are expensive).
    Won’t make any sense to PCCW or any providers to wire the Boonies before wiring up the downtown first, PCCW is not a charity organization is a business. Also providing service to Boonies will cost more from technical point of view (broken cable, Fire reader) as far as the distance the technician has to travel to the time would take to resolve one technical issue in Boonies.
    It does not make any sense for Government to Fiber wire the Boonies or any places since they will be responsible for fixing any damages or upgrades. It has been a proven fact that the privet organizations are in forefront of any inventions or improvements in technology for mass and common use (eg: Google, Apple)
    One must understand by living in Boonies they will not have the same access as one living in downtown when it comes to the latest technologies.

    1. “One must understand by living in Boonies they will not have the same access as one living in downtown when it comes to the latest technologies.” Nonsense.

      1. Seems perfectly reasonable really and standard around the whole world. High speed broadband always gets rolled out to the mostly densely populated areas first, if you choose to live miles away that’s your choice.

        1. And it’s my choice and my right to complain and try to get some action rather than accepting it as it is.

  3. Spike, have u considered using satelite instead?

    another consideration is to have a co-op that share a gigibit line? fibre (or fiber) shouldn’t be that is the support that costs money…

    1. I tried searching for satellite internet providers in HK and if I recall correctly, the services I located all were super slow and super expensive. I have no idea how a co-op gigabit line would be set up. Even presuming there is fiber along the main road, and I suspect there isn’t, how would it get to the 100 houses in the village without tearing up streets, which requires land department permits, which takes forever.

  4. Look at the bright side, if everything was perfect, people would be clamoring to live out there and the rent would be much higher.

  5. couldn’t the fibre attached to the power poles (if any) above ground to avoid the gov’t permits? another solution is to use something similar to WiMax from the co-op site (endpoint of fibre)? WiMax have the range of about a mile.

    I also suggest going around your house (outside, secure a neighbor help if necessary) to find a consistent(95%+) 4G reception then slap repeaters until hits wired-LAN network for your flat.

    1. AC – actually aside from one or two minor annoyances I think life out here is pretty damned good and I don’t know why more people aren’t coming this way.

      nulle – i don’t know. but if you read previous posts you’ll see i already keep my 4g modem outside the house and have a series of extenders to get the signal inside and upstairs.

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