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LCQ13: Signal reception in frontier areas

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (May 2):


     I received complaints from residents of Lin Ma Hang Village in Sha Tau Kok, alleging that despite the opening of the frontier closed area gradually, television (TV) signals received in quite a number of frontier areas, including Lin Ma Hang Village, are still unclear, and mobile phone network signals are also weak, or mobile phones are frequently switched to mobile phone networks on the Mainland, causing much inconvenience to them in their everyday life. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have conducted surveys to identify in which frontier areas TV signals, including digital terrestrial television or analogue television signals, cannot be received or are not clear; if they have, of the respective locations with no or poor reception of TV signals; the reasons for no or poor reception of TV signals at such locations; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the authorities had tested the strength of local mobile phone network signals received in the frontier areas in the past three years; if they had, of the findings, including the locations where there was no local network coverage, and where mobile phones automatically searched and switched to mobile phone networks on the Mainland owing to problems such as varying signal strengths, etc.; if not, the reasons for that and whether after the opening of the frontier closed area detailed tests will be conducted in order to make improvement; and

(c) whether the authorities will take measures to rectify the problem of poor television and telecommunication signal reception in the frontier areas; if they will, of the details and the time of implementation; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government's reply to the question raised by the Hon Lau Kong-wah is as follows:

(a) Since the commencement of digital terrestrial television (DTT) service in Hong Kong in late 2007, two domestic free television programme service licensees, namely, Asia Television Limited (ATV) and Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), have been building and extending their digital broadcast networks in phases, with a view to expanding the coverage of their DTT services progressively to the whole territory. At present, a total of 29 DTT transmitting stations have been completed by ATV and TVB, with their coverage reaching over 96% of the population.

     Even though ATV's and TVB's digital broadcasting stations are located at hilltops/rooftops of high-rise buildings for wide area coverage, their broadcasting signals may be blocked by hills/buildings nearby, resulting in weak television (TV) signals which caused reception problems in certain areas. The two broadcasters will further enhance their DTT networks so as to maximise the overall DTT coverage.

     From time to time, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) takes measurements of analogue TV signals and DTT signals across the territory. It also offers advice to members of the public who seek help in respect of TV signal reception, and conducts follow-up on-site investigation, as necessary. According to OFCA's measurement records, areas near the boundary that cannot receive or clearly receive Hong Kong's analogue TV signals or DTT signals include Lin Ma Hang, Sha Tau Kok and Ta Kwu Ling.

(b) Owing to the close proximity of Hong Kong to Shenzhen, it is inevitable that there is some overlap in the coverage of the mobile networks of Hong Kong and the Mainland in certain locations, especially along the boundary, and overspill signals cannot be avoided completely.

     To minimise the occurrence of inadvertent roaming (or so-called "network jumping"), the OFCA and relevant Mainland authorities have already put in place a co-ordination mechanism to take measurements regularly along the boundary (including the frontier closed area at Sha Tau Kok recently opened to the public) so as to monitor overspill signals. If the strength of such signals is found to exceed the agreed limit, the mobile network operators concerned will be required to reduce the signal strength. In the past three years, both sides jointly conducted 12 measurements of overspill signals and found that the strength of such signals was in general below the agreed limit. For those specific areas where overspill signals were found exceeding the agreed limit, the mobile network operators concerned would act in accordance with the co-ordination mechanism to reduce the signal strength.

     The OFCA advised that, for users near the boundary or in remote areas, they should check the displays of their mobile phones first before they make or answer a call. If their mobile phones indicate that they are connected to a Mainland network, users could select their Hong Kong networks by "manual network selection" to avoid incurring additional charges as a result of "network jumping".

(c) The Government has introduced a number of measures to facilitate the installation of base stations in country parks and remote areas (including the sections of frontier closed area now open to the public) by mobile network operators to improve their service coverage in such areas. Measures include allowing operators to use existing Government buildings and hilltop sites, subletting Government land at nominal rent, allowing operators to use microwave stations to connect to their base stations in remote areas, and assigning additional radio spectrum to operators at no charge. These measures had been implemented for years, and mobile operators had made use of these facilitating measures to install base stations at various locations to provide service coverage in country parks and remote areas. Taking country parks as an example, the number of base stations serving the country parks and their nearby remote areas has been increased from seven to 24 since 2005. For the hiking trails, about 95% of the hiking trails under the management of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department have been covered by at least one local mobile phone network.

     As regards the improvement of reception of domestic free TV services, the OFCA is working with ATV and TVB to explore ways to enhance TV reception in areas where reception is poor (including areas near the boundary). For example, technical feasibility studies will be conducted on increasing the transmitting power of some transmitting stations to further enhance DTT coverage.

Ends/Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:05


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