LCQ16: Internet access services for residents in remote areas
Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 5):
Some residents in the remote villages in Sai Kung and Tai Po have relayed to me that as there is only one operator providing fixed network broadband Internet access services (FNO) in their areas of residence, they have no other choice but to patronise it. Regarding the access to Internet access services through the fixed network, the mobile network and the public Wi-Fi network by residents in remotes areas in the New Territories, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of complaints received by the authorities in each of the past three years from residents in remote areas against the only FNO in their areas of residence;
(2) whether it has specific plans to encourage more FNOs to provide fixed network broadband services for residents in remote areas in order to introduce competition;
(3) whether the Digital 21 Strategy currently implemented by the Government has included policies on catering for the needs of residents in remote areas for telecommunications services; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(4) as it has been reported that an academic has pointed out that Hong Kong excessively relies on third-generation or fourth-generation data services, thus giving rise to frequent occurrences of serious network congestion, whether the authorities will consider allocating the television services spectrum which is currently left idle for the provision of such services, in order to ease network congestion; and
(5) given that the information provided by the Government in its reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council last year indicated that the number of Wi-Fi hotspots provided by commercial organisations in the North District, Tai Po and outlying islands were fewer than those in other districts, whether the authorities know the reasons for that and whether they will discuss with those organisations the feasibility of increasing Wi-Fi hotspots in remote areas?
(1) Over the past three years, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has received and handled some enquiries and complaints from members of the public concerning fixed broadband network coverage. However, OFCA has not specifically compiled statistics on the number of complaints received from residents in remote areas concerning the provision of service by only one fixed network operator (FNO) in their areas of residence.
(2) and (3) With the full liberalisation of the telecommunications market in Hong Kong, the provision of fixed broadband service, the network coverage and the type of technologies adopted are primarily decided by FNOs based on their commercial considerations.
With a view to encouraging and assisting FNOs to invest in network expansion, OFCA has all along been committed to offering facilitation measures, including assisting FNOs in rolling out network across public streets, government-owned bridges and tunnels, and explaining to property management companies and owners' corporations the responsibilities and duties of FNOs and the advantages that would bring to the residents in respect of network rollout in private premises so as to enhance network coverage and access.
If OFCA receives enquiry or complaint alleging that the provision of fixed broadband service cannot satisfy the demand of residents in remote areas, OFCA will relay it to FNOs and encourage them to explore feasible options with a view to enhancing the network coverage of those areas and meeting market needs.
In respect of the "Digital 21 Strategy" implemented by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, it aims to leverage on new technologies to propel the overall development of information and communications technology industry instead of focusing primarily on telecommunications.
(4) The mobile network operators have endeavoured to install radio base stations in various districts of Hong Kong over the years so as to establish mobile network coverage and meet the needs of subscribers for mobile data services. Although mobile network may be relatively congested in highly crowded locations (such as MTR stations in busy areas) during peak hours, the overall capacity of the mobile network is adequate for service demand. With intense competition in the market, we believe that the operators will continue to optimise their network coverage and capacity to satisfy the continuously increasing service demand.
As regards the existing television channels in the Ultra High Frequency band (i.e. 470-806 MHz) in Hong Kong, they have all been used for free-to-air terrestrial television service or mobile television service, and there is no vacant channel available.
(5) Since the local telecommunications market has been fully liberalised, the coverage of public Wi-Fi services provided by commercial organisations and the number of hotspots provided are decided by individual operators based on their commercial considerations in a competitive environment of the market, and may be affected by various factors, such as the extent of commercial activities in the district.
With a view to encouraging and assisting FNOs concerned in Wi-Fi network expansion, OFCA has all along been committed to offering facilitation measures, including assisting FNOs in rolling out network at public streets, government-owned bridges and tunnels, and facilitating their installation of Wi-Fi equipment on government facilities (e.g. lamp posts, footbridges and flyovers).
Wednesday, November 5, 2014