LCQ9: Provision of public payphone service in Hong Kong
Following is a question by the Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (June 7):
Some members of the public have relayed to me that a number of public payphone kiosks have been built along certain walkways with high pedestrian flows, but several public payphones (payphones) in them are unserviceable as they have remained unrepaired since they broke down. On the other hand, given that as at February this year, the mobile subscriber penetration rate was as high as 232 per cent, occasions on which members of the public need to use such payphones are fewer than those in the past. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the current number of payphones across the territory (with a breakdown by District Council district);
(2) whether it knows the number of calls made in each of the past three years through payphones (with a breakdown by whether the telephone numbers dialled were local, Mainland or overseas numbers);
(3) whether the authorities have formulated planning guidelines specifying the number and locations of payphones to be installed, and whether they have required local fixed network operators (FNOs) to repair, within a specified time limit, their payphones which have broken down;
(4) given that the FNO with the universal service obligation (USO) is entitled to recover the net cost for meeting its USO by collecting universal service contribution (USC) from other service operators, of the amount of USC payable, in accordance with the level set by the authorities, in each of the past three years for the provision of uneconomic payphones; and
(5) whether the authorities will assess afresh the need of the public or tourists to use payphones; in respect of the situation in which a number of payphone kiosks have been built along some walkways with high pedestrian flows, whether the authorities will discuss with the FNOs concerned the removal of those payphones with low usage, so as to improve the pedestrian environment; if they will not, of the reasons for that?
In respect of the question by Member on public payphones (Payphones), my reply is as follows:
(1) As at end of March 2017, there were a total of 3 147 Payphones in Hong Kong, of which 1 562 were installed on unleased government land such as public streets, while 1 585 were installed within buildings.
The distribution of Payphones installed on unleased government land is as follows:
Telecommunications operators are not required to apply to the Government for installing Payphones within buildings. The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) does not keep record of the distribution of this type of Payphones by district.
(2) At present, the great majority of Payphone service is provided by PCCW-HKT Telephone Limited and Hong Kong Telecommunications (HKT) Limited (HKT) under the universal service obligation (USO) specified in its unified carrier licence (UCL), whilst the rest is provided by two other operators on a commercial basis.
According to the data obtained from HKT by OFCA, during 2014 and 2015, about 44 per cent of the Payphones operated by the company had an average revenue of more than HK$1 per day, and about 56 per cent had an average revenue of not more than HK$1 per day.
Other than the information above, OFCA does not have separate information on the number of calls and the called destinations by Payphones in the past three years.
(3) Pursuant to the UCLs issued by the Communications Authority (CA), operators are required to operate, maintain and provide a good, efficient and continuous telecommunications service in a manner satisfactory to the CA. In addition, under the USO arrangement, HKT is required under the Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106) to ensure that a good, efficient and continuous "basic service", including Payphone service, is, in the CA's opinion, reasonably available to all persons within Hong Kong. Based on its assessment and public requests, HKT installs Payphones at locations with demand to comply with the requirement of USO. As for the other operators, the provision of Payphone service is based on commercial considerations. The CA has not set separate guidelines on the number and location of Payphones.
The operators concerned are obliged to ensure proper operation of their Payphone service. In general, the operators will conduct routine inspections of Payphones and equipment on a regular basis to ensure their proper operation. In case of any damage, service disruption or interruption of Payphones, the operators concerned are required to take action and restore service as soon as possible so as to minimise inconvenience to users. If members of the public have any enquiries regarding the use and operation of Payphones, they may contact the operators concerned direct, or inform OFCA of the serial numbers or locations of the Payphones with problems for OFCA to refer to the operators concerned for follow-up.
(4) Under the USO, all fixed and mobile service operators, including HKT itself, are obliged to share the net cost of providing universal service.
The amounts of universal service contribution (USC) for Payphone service for 2012, 2013 and 2014 were HK$27.2 million, HK$27.6 million and HK$21.6 million respectively, which were shared by about 30 fixed and mobile service operators. The CA is reviewing the USC for 2015.
(5) With the increasing popularity of mobile phones, OFCA has from time to time received public views requesting removal of certain Payphones.
In the light of this, OFCA has been in consultation with the industry over the review of the number of Payphones under the USO in the past 12 months. The matter has also been discussed at the Telecommunications Regulatory Affairs Advisory Committee of OFCA. OFCA plans to consult District Councils and other relevant stakeholders in the second half of this year after the CA has finalised the guiding principles and details of the review.
Ends/Wednesday, June 7, 2017