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Banding together

Published on Friday, 30 May 2014
Selina Chong
Photo: Lau Wai

HKBN is recruiting heavily as its enterprise solutions business speeds up

Selina Chong, chief marketing officer at Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN), has a down-to-earth view of the kind of business her company is in.

“We treat broadband as a utility, as a non-elitist product,” she says. “People can’t imagine living without the internet in the same way they can’t imagine living without water or electricity.”

When it comes to domestic users, at least, this approach seems to be paying off. “We have spent the last decade building up the residential side of our business and we have 80 per cent of households in Hong Kong covered,” Chong says. “The entire residential broadband market actually shrank in our last fiscal year – September to August – by 39,000 lines, but our share grew by 34,000. We are very excited about this.”

Chong thinks one of the prime reasons for this fall in the overall market is consolidation by customers with more than one line. “Secondly, some people are simply opting for mobile data. Single people and young couples are out most of the day and when they get home they’re on their mobile phone, so they don’t need a fixed line. But the fixed line is still important if there is a child or an elderly person at home.”

Key factors in HKBN’s success in this sector are its pricing policy and the speed of its service. “Broadband shouldn’t be unreasonably expensive and it doesn’t have to be,” Chong says. “Our broadband service comes via 100, 500 and 1,000 Mbps [megabits per second] lines, and we have made a pledge that the cost of our 100Mbps lines will not exceed 1 per cent of the median monthly household income in Hong Kong, currently HK$220.”

According to Akamai Technologies’ “State of the Internet Report” for the third quarter of last year, Hong Kong’s overall average peak connection speed was the fastest in the world at 65.4Mbps. However, HKBN pushed up the local rate as its own network’s average peak connection speed was clocked at 84.6Mbps.

Now HKBN wants to mirror its success in the residential market in the corporate arena. “We are growing enterprise solutions, the corporate side of our business, in a very aggressive way,” Chong reveals, adding that the company will be looking to expand its 2,500-strong workforce to achieve its goals.

The commercial market assumes high speeds and levels of resilience and redundancy when it comes to broadband services, Chong says, so she believes the winning factor is the people employed to service businesses in Hong Kong.

“We are recruiting a large number of people spanning different disciplines,” she says. “Of course, there are technical skill sets they need to have, but when it comes to their soft skills, we’re recruiting people with the right attitude who want to make a difference and not just get a pay cheque. They will have to be able to actually listen to the customer, think outside the box and be creative problem-solvers and solution-providers. People who are strong technically, but have no business sense, need not apply.”

Chong believes that HKBN has the right products and mindset to achieve its goals. “[We’re] not just a vendor, but a solution-provider. We don’t just cover IT, but offer business solutions. We like nothing better than to have someone come to us with a revenue problem, not just an IT or a broadband problem, and ask us to help them grow their business.”

While HKBN previously had a presence in the corporate market, it is upping its game two years after undergoing a radical change. “Our company is unique in the Hong Kong telecommunications industry,” Chong explains. “We were bought by a private equity firm at the beginning of 2012, and in the process [the company’s managers] were invited to invest in the company, making us co-owners. The disciplines that the 78 [managers who became co-owners] come from include the technical, the creative and the financial, and the youngest co-owner was then 23 years old.”

Before joining HKBN, Chong, who graduated from the University of Toronto with a BSc in psychology, and from McMaster University in Ontario with an MBA, worked in brand management, corporate communications, strategic sales and marketing, both in Canada and Asia-Pacific. This included companies such as American Express, Citibank, Fidelity Investments and Octopus Cards.

She thinks that HKBN is a nimble enough business to cope with the ever-changing digital environment and the associated demands of its corporate customers. “Wi-Fi is being asked for more. Previously retailers had Wi-Fi just so customers could get their e-mail while in the shop, but now they are finding ways to monetise this service,” she says.

“Also, SIP trunking is becoming more popular. This is a voice communication system that also carries data. So it’s not like the normal office phone system that just had a voice function. The beauty of this is that in today’s business environment, where it is essential to control costs, SIP trunking allows companies the flexibility to expand or downsize without a great deal of capital expenditure attached. There’s scalability.”


Selina Chong foresees five future trends in the world of broadband services.
Cashing in “More retailers will discover how to monetise the Wi-fi services they provide.”
Floating workplace “Unified communication will enable an office to be anywhere.”
Cloud cover “The migration of business and personal digital services to the cloud is imminent.”
Total link-up “All home and office devices will be connected.”
Central collection “It will be possible to access a media library – photos, songs and movies – on devices such as your big TV screen via DLNA [Digital Living Network Alliance].”

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