Following is a question by the Hon Charles Mok and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 20):
Since 2008, the Government Wi-Fi Programme (GovWiFi) has been implemented to provide the public with free wireless broadband Internet connection service at government premises. The Government is planning to further extend the GovWiFi service to more leisure locations as well as popular focal points. It will also work with public organisations (such as public hospitals) to provide free wireless Internet connection services at their premises, and is planning to promote a common Wi-Fi branding for Wi-Fi services offered free of charge. In relation to the establishment of a public Wi-Fi network, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the average daily number of users and number of Internet connections for GovWiFi as at October this year;
(b) of (i) a breakdown by type of premises of the number of premises provided with GovWiFi service, and (ii) the number of Wi-Fi hotspots provided by commercial organisations, as at October this year, broken down by District Council district;
(c) as some members of the public have relayed to me that the stability of connection and data transmission speed of the GovWiFi hotspots at individual premises are poor, whether the authorities have plans to make improvements; if they have, of the details;
(d) given that the former Office of the Telecommunications Authority revised in 2007 the “Guidance Note for Submission of Application for Installing Micro-cell Base Station on Highway Facilities or on Unleased and Unallocated Government Land” to facilitate telecommunications services operators to provide and expand the coverage of outdoor wireless Internet connection services in Hong Kong, of the number of operators which have passed the relevant power supply tests and have installed Wi-Fi devices on lamp posts, as well as the total number of Wi-Fi devices installed by these operators and the distribution of such devices, as at October this year; whether the authorities will consider establishing an inter-departmental coordinating group to provide one-stop services to the operators so as to help them apply for installing Wi-Fi devices on lamp posts and to solve related technical or other problems;
(e) given that the Director of Audit’s Report No. 60 has recommended the authorities to “run the [GovWiFi] service more cost-effectively”, whether the authorities have drawn up any specific targets and plans in this regard; and
(f) given that the service contract with the existing contractor of GovWiFi will expire in December 2017, whether the authorities have plans to review the current mode of procuring integrated services from the market (e.g. examining the feasibility of adopting a public-private partnership approach), so as to enhance service quality and encourage creative options for utilising GovWiFi hotspots; if they have, of the details, timetable and targets?
The Government Wi-Fi (GovWiFi) Programme aims to provide free wireless Internet access services to the public and visitors by installing Wi-Fi facilities at suitable government premises. Under the GovWiFi Programme, which was launched in early 2008, more than 2 300 Wi-Fi hotspots have been installed at 430 government premises in the 18 districts across the territory to provide free GovWiFi services to the public and visitors. These premises include public libraries, public enquiry service centres, sports venues, cultural and recreational centres, cooked food markets and cooked food centres, job centres, community halls, major parks, government buildings and offices, etc.
Regarding the questions raised by Hon Charles Mok, my reply is as follows:
(a) Since its roll-out, GovWiFi service has been well received by the public with a steady growth in service usage. The average number of users and Internet connections per day have increased from about 3 700 and 6 700 upon the full roll-out of service in June 2009 to 26 600 and 36 300 respectively in October 2013.
(b) Distribution of GovWiFi premises by type in various districts (as at October 2013) is set out in Annex 1. Distribution of public Wi-Fi hotspots provided by other commercial organisations in various districts is set out in Annex 2.
(c) We have just completed a comprehensive service inspection at all GovWiFi premises to ensure service quality. Moreover, in order to increase the transmission speed, starting from October this year, the bandwidth allocation per user of GovWiFi service was increased (from the previous 1-2 Mbps to about 3 Mbps) whereas the overall bandwidth for individual premises was adjusted according to service usage. We have also increased the frequency of monthly sample checks on GovWiFi service at these premises to monitor the service level, including transmission speed and connection stability.
(d) The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has issued the “Guidance Note for Submission of Application for Installing Micro-cell Base Station on Highway Facilities or on Unleased and Unallocated Government Land” to facilitate the installation of radio base stations and Wi-Fi equipment on government facilities (e.g. lamp posts, footbridges and flyovers) by operators (i.e. mobile network operators and public wireless service operators). The Guidance Note sets out in details the procedures, requirements and issues concerning the installation of micro-cell base stations (MCBS) at the said locations to facilitate the submission of applications by operators. The latest version of the Guidance Notes has been uploaded to the website of the Communications Authority (www.coms-auth.hk/filemanager/statement/tc/upload/121/MCBS-GN(Issue4)v4.pdf) for the operators’ reference. The application process for installation of MCBS is divided into two stages, namely: (1) coordination stage and (2) technical approval stage. The departments primarily involved in approving the applications include OFCA, the Highways Department (HyD), the Lands Department and the Transport Department. OFCA will co-ordinate the handling of operators’ applications among the government departments concerned in accordance with the Guidance Note.
Regarding the installation of Wi-Fi equipment on lamp posts, two operators have submitted applications for conducting pilot tests to OFCA and the departments concerned. One of them has conducted the tests, while the departments concerned have also provided views on the pilot project of the other operator. To resolve the technical and related problems by the industry, OFCA and HyD have since early this year resumed meeting with the operators regularly to review and streamline the approval process and installation requirements, so as to facilitate the operators to make use of lamp posts for the installation of Wi-Fi equipment to provide public Wi-Fi services. To assist operators with the selection of suitable lamp posts, HyD has provided the operators with a list for their reference. The list contains information such as location and height of lamp posts available for installation of Wi-Fi equipment. Those lamp posts on the list have been selected with reference to information such as weight and wind exposure area of their Wi-Fi equipment provided by the operators in recent years. Besides, the operators are co-ordinating among themselves to work out a standardised design for installing their Wi-Fi equipment, which is expected to be submitted to HyD for endorsement by end of this year.
(e) Regarding the recommendation made in the Director of Audit’s Report that the GovWiFi service should be run more cost-effectively, we will continue to monitor and review GovWiFi service usage at the existing and new premises to ensure cost-effectiveness, including collecting and analysing information on the daily numbers of GovWiFi users and Internet connections at all the premises for proper and timely service adjustment.
In selecting new GovWiFi premises, we will consider the patronage and service demand of the premises. We will suggest Wi-Fi hotspots to be installed first at locations which are convenient to public access with high patronage to enhance the cost-effectiveness of the service facilities.
(f) The GovWiFi service contract will expire by the end of 2017. We plan to start a strategic review in 2015 in collaboration with the user departments, and will examine the feasibility of various options.
Ends/Wednesday, November 20, 2013 Issued at HKT 14:44