Foreseeing a rapid growth in Hong Kong's telecommunications industry, with a resultant need for more specific regulations, the government established the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) early in 1993. OFTA's duties cover the economic and technical regulation of telecommunications services, enforcement of fair competition in the telecommunications sector and management of the radio-frequency spectrum.
In order to clear the skies for further industry development and to make sure of a healthy market for all stakeholders, OFTA's four branches (regulatory, competition, operation and support) work closely with key players within the field.
"Consumers must have a choice," stresses Elaine Hui, principal regulatory affairs manager (competition affairs branch), OFTA. "And telecommunications companies must be well aware of this." As such, part of Ms Hui's job is to ensure that competition in the market is fair so that a win-win situation is maintained for both service providers and subscribers. "We monitor market trends and the business environment on a day-to-day basis. For example, advertising and marketing activities should not mislead consumers and companies shouldn't abuse their business advantages. Doing so, we must thoroughly understand the Telecommunications Ordinance and its underlying philosophy," Ms Hui says.
Chaucer Leung, senior telecom engineer (advisory and support) of OFTA, adds, "We are accountable to the public and telecommunications operators. To clearly explain our position and policies, we take the initiatives and reach out to people from all walks of life." For example, meetings with district councillors and the industry are frequent. OFTA also organises a range of consumer education programmes and releases issues of consumer focus on its website.
A senior telecom engineer, Mr Leung and his team are responsible for a range of technical issues, such as technical regulation of broadcasting services. But the job does require a great deal more than technical skills and technological know-how. "Soft skills are essential when conveying messages to the stakeholders or members of the public, particularly when dealing with complaints and building relationships," notes Mr Leung, who has just completed a law programme. He adds that it is particularly important to be able to explain challenges such as technological limitations in laymen's terms, in order to reach consensus or achieve mutual understanding.
"Hong Kong is not a single market but an integral part of the global economy. Part of our responsibilities is to facilitate and maintain partnerships with other regions and countries through a variety of channels such as overseas conferences and forums," Ms Hui explains. "Our officers participate in various meetings overseas to achieve common goals or to keep abreast of the international best practice," she says.
A streamlined operation, OFTA is a 300-staff powerhouse, within which cross-divisional communication is quick and easy. Teamwork is frequent and absolutely necessary. "We get to work closely with one another as there are always novel tasks, and lots of things to accomplish and many people to deal with. The job never gets tedious," Mr Leung says. "In addition, job rotation opportunities also help us put things into perspective. This is really an excellent milieu to develop ourselves into generalists and specialists simultaneously."
When recruiting, OFTA looks for specific academic qualifications and work experience, but in Mr Leung's experience, successful candidates typically also have superior soft skills and amiable personalities. "The office looks for well-rounded candidates with suitable attributes," he says.
Ms Hui, who entered the industry from a legal background, agrees. "I joined OFTA some seven years ago and have been able to broaden my horizons," she says. "I had the chance to learn a lot about the telecommunications industry. But then again, we need knowledge in business and economy. To handle the many issues that arise in this multi-faceted industry, we must also be able to exercise common sense, have analytical abilities and negotiation skills, as well as insight into customer behaviour and market trends."