Finding a supplier became a matter of elimination. After researching the market, it appeared that only Motorola and Mobile Data International had the ability to tackle the project.
Motorola had developed a wireless data system for IBM's field service business and had created a portable data terminal which was rugged but expensive. MDI had made their name by selling police and taxi dispatch systems using vehicle terminals.
Neither supplier had the kind of switch or terminals I was envisaging, but after exhaustive evaluation, it appeared that MDI had the better technology and the willingness to work with me to create something new.
The complicating factor was that Motorola was already an equity partner in Hutchison Telecom and expected to win the business. The tension caused by picking MDI would continue to affect the relationship over the next few years.
Having picked the supplier, it was time to secure the radio spectrum necessary to operate the network. Like most countries that inheirited their laws from Britain, Hong Kong regulated the radio spectrum as a public good administered by the General Post Office.
Bureaucracies are not usually setup to deal with new or rapidly changing situations, and so it was with the GPO. If there was not a form to apply on, the organization was not sure how to respond to a request for a licence.
After a couple of attempts to explain the request, I decided to go to the top and met with the Head of Regulation. I received a much different reception at this level - genuine curiosity and a desire to help. In short order, we agreed on the information that would need to be provided, and the form an application for spectrum would have to take.
The creation of the licence application took 3 months of detailed technical and financial work. Effectively, we were being asked to provide not only an engineering document, but also a business plan that would explain why we should be given exclusive use of the limited radio spectrum. MDI did a wonderful job of providing the technical documentation, and we let our imaginations run riot conceiving of all the different services that could be provided with a public wireless data network.