Today, it's a very different story. With 17 fixed network operators, 185 internet service providers and a 203 per cent mobile phone penetration rate, the role of the Office of Telecommunications Authority (OFTA) regulator now demands much more economics, legal and accounting skills than the existing civil service grade of telephone engineer provides.
Enter the regulatory affairs manager (RAM) - Hong Kong's first new civil service grade in a decade - and an exciting opportunity opens for qualified individuals to play a varied and leading role in the continued development of the region's communications markets.
"Right now we have a strong team of engineers," says Chaucer Leung, assistant director (support) at OFTA. "What we are lacking is those from other disciplines, such as lawyers, accountants, and economists. The purpose of the new grade is to embrace these missing disciplines."
At present, OFTA has around 30 contract posts handling non-technical regulatory work. But, according to Leung, the existing practice of hiring non-technical talent through contract staff has become unacceptable. High turnover of contract staff, restricted career development, and a need to ensure absolute impartiality - all have created a need to bring such staff into the civil service proper.
The initial RAM recruitment, with a closing date of 2 March, will be for one chief, four principals and eight seniors. Eighteen entry-level RAMs will be hired later in the year, around August or September, according to Leung.
While OFTA is opening the recruitment process, the first successful candidates will be signing their employment contracts with the newly formed Office of Communications Authority (OFCA), the communications and broadcasting super regulator, which begins life in April this year from the merger of OFTA with the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA).