Mobile carriers are having to swallow high costs as they install fourth-generation networks at MTR stations.
Four of Hong Kong's five carriers - PCCW Mobile, 3 Hong Kong, CSL and China Mobile - announced yesterday that they have struck separate deals with the MTR Corp (0066).
Odd man out is SmarTone Telecom (0315), due to launch its 4G network today. It remains locked in talks on a network with the rail operator.
Bruce Lam Kwok-shing, chief marketing officer of PCCW Mobile, said it will this month start to convert a 1800 megahertz spectrum that works underground into the 4G network. It will take several months to complete.
Lam was not, however, willing to disclose how much PCCW is having to pay the MTRC for the right to upgrade.
And China Mobile Hong Kong chief executive Sean Lee limited himself to saying the company will provide full 4G coverage by the end of the year.
Third-generation technology now used on the MTR system is said to be in desperate need of upgrading. Carriers have reported constant complaints from subscribers on data speed and quality.
The carriers have discussed upgrades with the MTRC since the start of the year but there had been disagreement on pricing, Standard sister publication Sing Tao Daily was told.
The phone firms were unhappy about the MTRC demanding a sharp rise in fees for 4G networks even though the work involved simple upgrades of existing gear rather than major engineering.
Meanwhile, PCCW announced that all its new handset plans will be offering unlimited voice calls.
As most subscribers did not use all the voice-minute allowance, Lam said, scrapping it altogether provided a clearer tariff structure based just on data usage.
PCCW has raised the data allowances for low-tariff plans.
For HK$149 a month plus fees it offers one gigabyte instead of 100 megabytes previously. Subscribers can make free unlimited overseas calls home under WiFi with an app on the Android platform and - later - on Apple products.