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LCQ13: Installation of radio base stations for mobile communications in private buildings
     Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):
     Regarding the regulation of the installation of radio base stations (RBSs) for mobile communications in private buildings by mobile network operators (MNOs), will the Government inform this Council:
(1) given that works on installation of RBSs on rooftops of buildings may be carried out under the Minor Works Control System without obtaining the prior approval and consent from the Buildings Department as long as the RBSs have not exceeded the relevant restrictions on the size, whether the Government will consider imposing restrictions under the System on the maximum permissible (i) number of RBSs installed on a rooftop and (ii) weight of a RBS; if so, of the details; if not, how the authorities ensure that, in the event that several RBSs have been installed on the same rooftop, (a) the total weight of such RBSs will not exceed the loading capacity of the rooftop, (b) the total electricity consumption of such RBSs will not affect the electrical safety of the building, and (c) the total heat dissipation of such RBSs will not affect the fire safety of the building;
(2) in respect of those RBSs currently installed on the external walls of the rooftops of buildings, whether it has assessed if such RBSs (i) are unauthorised structures, and (ii) have affected the structural safety of the buildings; if it has assessed, of the outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) given that MNOs are required to obtain prior approval from the Communications Authority (CA) before installing RBSs, whether CA conducted in the past three years any surprise inspections on RBS installation works and on those RBSs installed; if so, of the number of cases involving unauthorised installation of RBSs that CA uncovered and its related follow-up actions; and

(4) given that it was reported that some MNOs installed, without the authorities' approval, RBSs in rented top floor units of commercial or residential buildings and on their rooftops, and even cut through the rooftops to connect such units with the rooftops, of (i) the number of complaints received by the authorities about such RBSs, (ii) the number of removal orders issued by the Buildings Department in respect of such RBSs, (iii) the number of cases in which the Lands Department (LandsD) issued warning letters in respect of such units and registered the letters at the Land Registry (commonly known as "imposing an encumbrance"), and (iv) the number of prosecutions instituted by the authorities against those parties who had not complied with the removal orders, in the past three years, and the average time taken from the issuance of a removal order to the institution of a prosecution; whether it knows the number of cases in the past three years in which the owners' corporations of the buildings instituted legal proceedings against the owners of such units for contravening the deeds of mutual covenant of the buildings; whether LandsD will consider invoking the Government Rights (Re-entry and Vesting Remedies) Ordinance (Cap. 126) to re-possess the units concerned?
     In consultation with the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the Development Bureau provides a consolidated reply as follows:
(1) Under the ambit of the Buildings (Minor Works) Regulation (B(MW)R), minor works of different nature, scale, complexity and safety risk are categorised into three classes (namely Class I, II and III). An erection of structure on the roof of a building to support a radio base station (base station) in the form of an equipment cabinet of not more than 1.5 metre (m) (length) x 1m (width) x 2.3m (height) is a Class I minor works. An Authorised Person (AP) and Registered Structural Engineer (RSE) (if necessary) appointed under the Buildings Ordinance (BO) (Cap 123) shall prepare design drawing and supervision proposal for such installation. The appointed building professionals shall assess the structural capacity of the building concerned to determine the maximum number of base station and weight limit of individual base station to ensure that the relevant building would not be overloaded. The relevant building professionals shall also ensure the installation works is in compliance with the prescribed fire safety standard as stipulated in the BO.
     Alteration or addition of an electrical installation for base station shall comply with the safety requirements of the Electricity Ordinance and Electricity (Wiring) Regulations. The works shall be carried out and certified by a registered contractor and registered electrical worker as well to ensure that the concerned installation meets the requirements of the ordinance, including the provision of appropriate protective device and that the maximum current demand does not exceed the existing approved loading etc. Any persons wishing to use electricity beyond the loading approved by the electricity supplier should obtain the approval of the relevant electricity supplier prior to any alteration or addition works. The relevant electricity supplier will assess the implications of the application on the electrical installations and electricity supply of the building concerned and ensure that the proposed electrical installations would not cause any safety hazards before approving the application.
(2) In accordance with the provisions of the BO, any building works in private buildings and lands (including addition and alteration at an existing building) unless belongs to an exempted building works under section 41(3) of the BO or are carried out through simplified requirements under "Minor Works Control System" (MWCS) shall follow the requirements stipulated in section 14 of the BO. Under section 14 of the BO, the appointed AP and RSE (if necessary) shall submit the plan to the Buildings Department (BD) and may only commence the works upon plan approval and consent to commence the works obtained by the BD. Otherwise, such building works are regarded as unauthorised.
     As mentioned above, the building professionals should assess the load carrying capacity of a building before deciding if an installation works could be carried out.

(3) Pursuant to the licence conditions of the unified carrier licence/mobile carrier licence issued under the Telecommunications Ordinance, mobile network operators (MNOs) must, before bringing a base station into use, ensure that the base station complies with the technical requirements on electromagnetic compatibility and radiofrequency radiation safety, and obtain approvals from the Communications Authority.
     The MNOs shall make a declaration when submitting an application to the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) for the use of base station regarding if the base station has fulfilled the requirements of relevant government departments including the compliance with the BO. If falsified declaration on the MNOs' applications is found, OFCA could refuse their applications or withdraw the approval already granted. OFCA will also notify relevant government departments for appropriate action.

     Under the MWCS, the BD conducts random audit check on approximately 7 000 minor works applications yearly and carries out on-site inspection as needed to ensure that the works are in compliance with the requirements of the B(MW)R. The BD does not keep statistics relating to minor works for base stations. OFCA will conduct periodic radiation safety audit on base stations in operation and carry out radiation level survey per requests of members of the public. In the last three years, all inspections met the required radiation safety standard.

(4) The BD would contemplate appropriate action against the unauthorised building works (UBW) according to the provisions as stipulated in the BO and prevailing enforcement policy. Upon receipt of a report of UBW, the BD will conduct an inspection and serve a statutory order ordering the owners to rectify the irregularities if an UBW warranting immediate enforcement action is identified. The BD would consider instigating prosecution against owners who fail to comply with an order. For UBW not warranting immediate enforcement action, the BD would, subject to case circumstances, issue an advisory letter advising the owners to demolish the UBW. The BD does not keep statistics regarding cases involving base stations.

     The Lands Department (LandsD) does not have readily available statistics on the number of complaints about base stations involving a breach of lease.

     Over the past three years, regarding building units used as base stations in breach of lease, there were in total six cases with warning letters issued, and three cases with warning letters registered in the Lands Registry.

     A Deed of Mutant Covenant is a private contractual agreement among owners of a building. LandsD has no capacity to enforce the provisions of a private contract and therefore does not have any information on related legal proceedings. Re-entry of an individual piece of land or unit in breach of the lease invoking the Government Rights (Re-entry and Vesting Remedies) Ordinance (Cap 126) is the most stringent measure taken by LandsD in respect of lease enforcement, and is usually adopted in cases involving more serious or persistent breaches of the lease. As lease breach cases handled by LandsD are of different types, severity and complexity, District Lands Offices will determine enforcement priority and strategy, having regard to the actual circumstances of the cases and caseload to be dealt with at any one time.
Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:00
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