4G connections swell as telecoms set the groundwork for 5G technology
Hong Kong is one of the most smartphone-friendly markets in the world. Nearly seven in 10 (69.8%) of the special administrative region's population will count as smartphone users in 2016, according to eMarketer forecasts. While the penetration rate is high, the overall number of smartphone users is comparatively low for an Asia-Pacific market at just 5 million, given Hong Kong's smaller population.
Among these smartphone users, Android is the preferred operating system across genders and age groups, according to data from geolocation platform Near. A study of smartphone users in Hong Kong conducted by the company in Q2 2016 found that Apple made its strongest showing among 18- to 25-year-olds, 37% of whom used iPhones. That compared with just 24% of 36- to 45-year-olds on the Apple devices.
Mobile advertising platform Vpon saw a similar split in favor of Android. It found that 65.2% of smartphones or tablets in use in Hong Kong ran Android, as of Q3 2016.
Smartphones have become an everyday tool for residents of Hong Kong. A study of smartphone users by global agency DigitasLBi, found that 83% went online using a smartphone at least once a day.
Google's Consumer Barometer also reflects a high level of mobile internet usage in Hong Kong. It found that 48% of internet users in the special administrative region used smartphones more often than computers or tablets to access the internet.
Data consumption by mobile phone users continues to grow, although it appears to be slowing. The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA)—Hong Kong found that mobile connections in Hong Kong used an average of 1.46 GB of mobile data in September 2016, up from 1.35 GB in December 2015.
Despite those increases, mobile internet users still rely heavily on Wi-Fi for online access. Vpon found that 63.5% of mobile network traffic flowed over Wi-Fi, with just 36.5% traveling via a mobile network.
From the OFCA, Mobile users are still largely on slower 3G networks, according to the OFCA, although 4G connections 3 4G connections in Hong Kong as of September 2016, compared with 7.17 million 4G connections.
GSMA predicts the percentage of 4G mobile connections will rise to 71% by 2020, giving 4G in Hong Kong a similar penetration rate to China's 73% that year.
Telecoms are hopeful for a launch of next-generation 5G networks serving Hong Kong by 2020. Media outlets reported in November that mainland telecom China Mobile had already tested 4.5G technology, as well as that Hong Kong-based mobile carrier SmarTone had partnered with Ericsson to invest in and test 5G connections.