Speech at Panel on Information Technology and Broadcasting

Arrangements for the frequency spectrum in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands upon expiry of the existing frequency assignments

Continuation of second generation public mobile telecommunications services

Mr CHAN Chun-ying noted that the second generation public mobile telecommunications services (“2G services”), which were supported solely by the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency spectrum, would gradually be phased out. He also noted that the Communications Authority (“CA”) now proposed in the second consultation to require the spectrum assignees of the 900/1800 MHz spectrum to seek CA’s prior approval before phasing out the 2G services instead of requiring them to continue to provide 2G services during a three-year transitional period from the commencement of the new spectrum assignment term in 2020 and 2021 as set out in the first consultation. As that were still 1.65 million 2G service subscribers in Hong Kong and that many of the Mainland visitors coming to Hong Kong were still using 2G services, Mr CHAN asked about the circumstances under which the CA would give approval for spectrum assignees to phase out their 2G services.

Deputy Director-General of Communications (Telecommunications) (“DDGC(T)”) said that licensees who were assigned the 900/1800 MHz spectrum could apply to CA to terminate their 2G services if the number of 2G service subscribers had decreased to a level rendering it no longer cost-effective to continue with the service, on condition that appropriate plans were in place for the remaining 2G service subscribers to migrate to higher generation services. DDGC(T) supplemented that although many Mainland visitors were still using 2G services, it was expected that the number of these users would fall towards 2020-2021 in line with the global trend to move towards newer technologies.

Provision of services in country parks and remote areas

Mr CHAN Chun-ying noted that the Administration proposed to waive SUF for incumbent spectrum assignees for using the re-assigned 2 × 4 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band to provide mobile coverage in country parks and remote areas for another 15 years upon expiry of the existing assignments until 29 September 2036. He asked how the period of 15 years was determined. DDGC(T) explained that the length of the proposed spectrum assignment period of 15 years was to tally with the validity period of the new carrier licence under which the spectrum would be assigned.

The Chairman noted that MNOs operating their networks at the 900/1800 MHz spectrum were required to maintain a minimum of 90% coverage of the population throughout the spectrum assignment term. She asked whether the Administration would ensure that the remaining 10% of the population had access to mobile services. DDGC(T) said that the Administration encouraged MNOs to provide mobile services in remote areas. He explained that 2 × 4 MHz of spectrum in the 1800 MHz band had been assigned to three MNOs for the provision of mobile coverage in the country parks and remote areas and no SUF was payable for such purpose. The Administration had also facilitated MNOs in installing base stations in country parks and remote areas, including allowing their use of government hilltop sites and buildings at nominal rental. Fixed network operators were also encouraged to enhance their Internet services by extending the optical fibre network to remote areas. Recently there were fixed network operators focusing on the provision of fixed broadband services in the rural and remote areas. It was expected that service coverage in the remote areas would gradually improve.


Implementation of Centrally Managed Messaging Platform


Mr CHAN Chun-ying supported the proposal. He asked how many civil servants would benefit from the proposed implementation of CMMP and when it would be extended to all departments. Mr CHAN also asked the level of savings in terms of energy consumption and economy of scale that could be achieved through installing the CMMP.

Government Chief Information Officer (“GCIO”) explained that the first phase of the CMMP implementation would cover all policy bureaux and the Department of Justice, involving around 15 000 government employees. The first phase was expected to take three years to complete. The second phase, which would cover the rest of the government departments, would include about 200 000 staff. Deputy Government Chief Information Officer (“DGCIO”) supplemented that, with the implementation of CMMP, the number of servers would be reduced from 320 to 77 and the electricity cost could be reduced by two-thirds (i.e. $880,000 per annum); the required floor space could also be reduced by about two-thirds, and the reclaimed space could be reallocated for other uses such as work stations for staff.