Internet market in Hong Kong has been growing impetuously over the last several years. In the beginning of 2001, Hong Kong led the world broadband market, having the highest in the world growth rate for household broadband penetration. The boom was reflected by almost 5 million subscribers by 2005, or to be exact 4,878,713, that made up over 70% of the population that doubled the digits of 2000 data with 2,283,000 people connected, or 34% (internetworldstats.com). Nevertheless, the take up of broadband services got off to a slow start as only at the beginning there any serious embracing of the services offerings took place. As for the current data, year 2008 revealed almost the same with 2005 penetration rate.
As for the Internet Service Providers, the great number of them appeared in early 2000s as a big jump in issuing licenses was followed in 2000. So, by the year 2005 about 188 ISPs were accounted.
Thus the largest Internet Service Providers in Hong Kong are represented by:
• PCCW Netvigator, covering 95% area with 1.9 million internet subscribers. The ISP provides with ADSL connections at 3 Mbit/s and 6-8 Mbit/s that priced differently. PCCW Netvigator’s newly constructed apartments have ADSL2 connections, with speeds up to 18M/1M. As for the Business plans, they may have speeds up to 1G/1G.
• HGC, ADSL & VDSL provider of connections with speeds up to 100M/100M.
• NWT, ADSL & VDSL provider of connections with speeds up to 10M/10M.
• HKBN, Metro Ethernet (Cat5e/FTTH for last mile) broadband provider of speeds up to 1G/1G.
• One Broadband, ADSL provider with connection speeds up to 8M/256K.
• I-cable Broadband, cable ISP, providing with connection speeds up to 8M/8M shared by one tower (tens of apartments).
One of the main ISPs, HKBN, offers its users internet connection with speeds starting from 10 Mbit/s up to 1000 Mbit/s (1 Gbit/s) trough Fiber to the building and Fiber to the Home. However the speed to non-Hong Kong destinations is capped to 20 Mbit/s. The company also provides Fiber to the Home plans for speeds up to BB100 (100/100 Mbit/s) and BB25 (25/25 Mbit/s), with the cost of about US$25 and US$22 per month.
Hong Kong’s national Internet top-level domain, or ccTLD, is .hk or .com.hk. Two year registration agreement costs $129 for .hk, and $229 for .com.hk. (http://www.rwgusa.com)
As for the e-commerce advancement, Hong Kong, along with Internet development success at the first stages, was among the first places in Asia to embrace e-commerce. Since the early 1980s, all but the smallest shipping and freight-forwarding companies have been using EDI (electronic data interchange). Later these companies turned to web-based networks for their business needs, like information and documents transmission.
Hong Kong appeared to become one of the pioneers, computerized import and export documentation in electronic media. An electronic platform for transactions, for receiving textile export licenses, certificates of origin and trade-declaration applications, Tradelink, was used by the Hong Kong government.
Among the largest e-commerce providers there are the followings:
• Tradelink, pioneer of e-commerce, has been promoting paperless trade and fully supporting e-commerce for Hong Kong’s businesses since launching its first electronic service in 1997. Tradelink built a superb reputation and recognition across broad industries and became one of the most influential e-commerce service providers in Hong Kong. Its wholly owned subsidiary Digi-Sign Certification Services Ltd appeared to be the first certification authority company in the country, providing a highly secure and trusted environment for its customers to conduct online transactions. Tradelink’s Digital Trade and Transportation Network Ltd provides an open, neutral, reliable and trusted community e-platform for trade, logistics and finance industries, enabling fast and efficient communications, document exchanges and information sharing among all scales of businesses. (tradelink-ebiz.com) Tradelink also provides with a range of value-added, transaction-management facilities including message checking, matching and validation, message authentication and security, electronic billing and payments, message archiving and audit-trail services.
• e-Shopping, provides customers with the ability to built their own online e-Shop, supplying with the choice of over 40 Professional e-Shop Design; it also supports with the variety of management services , such as Web Based Easy Control Panel Management, Customer Management, Order and Invoice Management, Product and Category Management, NewsLetter Shipping Management and Discount Management. Payment systems supported by e-Shopping are PayPal, WorldPay, Paydollar, HKBea and PayLink. (homepage.com.hk)
• EZ Trade, offered by a private group, the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association, supplies with EDI solutions that conform to international standards and automate the flow of papers between trading partners.
• Hongkong Post e-Cert, a recognized Certification Authority, supplies with a digital certificate that are stored in the Smart identity card held by every Hong Kong resident, individuals and organizations.
The installation of bar-coding and point-of-sale (POS) systems for inventory control and sales analysis is widespread in Hong Kong and is not just the domain of major retailers. Some larger supermarket networks have been developing POS technology targeting to streamline operations in an intensely competitive environment. Data-mining technology is also used widely by the wholesale and retailing sector, as well as Internet-ordering for home delivery that is in progress now.
Computer-aided design and Computer-aided manufacturing (CAD and CAM) systems are applied broadly in Hong Kong. Rapid growth in Internet technology to solicit innovative third-party supplies and components use also revealed. Thus, in manufacturing, automation of ordering, production management, sale and distribution systems is more advanced Hong Kong than in other countries, mainly because of country’s particular service role for manufacturing that occurs across the boundary in China.
As for the e-banking sector, growing number of banks within the country are currently providing with online banking. Moreover, financial institutions are now the most prominent users of e-commerce. The largest bank in Hong Kong that manages about half of its foreign-exchange trade online is HSBC (UK). It’s widely known, that HSBC is embraced with an Internet portal that allows spot trade as well as forwards and swaps, FXall.com. HSBC is one of the largest foreign-exchange market-makers in the world uniting around 50 institutional clients through dedicated Internet lines.
The major step was taken in securing online banking by the country in June 2005 when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority required the use of a two-factor authentication system for “high risk” transactions online: a reusable password chosen by the user, plus another password delivered at each log-on via SMS by e-Cert or by a portable authentication device, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Twelve banks have already launched their 2-factor authentication services using e-Cert late June 2005 following HSBC. Certainly, HSBC stepped far away by giving its online customers a keychain-sized “security device”. Thus users are just to enter the device’s serial number and a unique security code issued at the touch of a button.
Online share trading is also widespread in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing implemented the third generation of the Automatic Order Matching and Execution System (AMS/3) in August 2001. AMS/3 lets investors and brokers to trade securities electronically through the Internet, mobile phones and other e-channels. The stock market also uses an electronic off-platform trading system, whereas banks employ an interbank real-time gross-settlement system. eFXtrade, an online foreign-exchange service, is available to retail investors.
In terms of government participation in e-commerce sector development, it leads in promoting e-commerce by establishing the ESD (Electronic Service Delivery) scheme in October 2000. ESD strives for a paperless government by offering services online. ESD involves converting common government forms to electronic format so that the public can complete them electronically, sign them digitally and submit them to the government trough the web. Another government initiative supporting e-commerce infrastructure was presented in January 2000 with the Electronic Transactions Ordinance that provides digital signatures used in electronic transactions the same legal status as their paper-based counterparts.
ESDlife website enables Hongkongers to go online in order to handle much of their government-related business, such as paying taxes or booking appointments at Immigration House or the local tennis court. According to EIU, an amendment to the Immigration Ordinance approved by the Legislative Council in June 2005 allows even non-permanent residents, in addition to permanent Hong Kong residents, to breeze through immigration clearance by swiping their Smart identity cars at Automated Passenger Clearance Channels at Hong Kong ports.
Well, despite Internet market and e-commerce infrastructure progress in Hong Kong has slowed down after the rush in development, the countries potential is still high, mostly because it was one of the pioneers in this sphere. That’s why there is no doubt that Hong Kong will catch up the other countries, or even possibly outstrip them in terms of ICT and e-commerce industry development. Moreover, Hong Kong’s government also plays a very important role supporting and promoting an ICT and electronic infrastructure advancement.