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LCQ11: Provision of free Wi-Fi services by the Government
     Following is a question by the Hon Paul Tse and a written reply by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, in the Legislative Council today (November 22):
     As at February this year, the authorities have spent nearly $800 million to implement the Government Wi-Fi service and the Wi-Fi Connected City programmes, under which more than 19 000 free Wi-Fi hotspots have been provided. The average speed for Internet access of those hotspots is 4 Mbps and the Government has pledged that the Internet access speeds at some hotspots (e.g. libraries and museums) will be raised to 8 Mbps. It has been reported that the findings of an on-site survey, conducted by a media organisation at a number of government Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Hong Kong, show that the Internet access speeds of the Wi-Fi service at a number of popular tourist spots were extremely low (e.g. the Internet access speed in the vicinity of the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower was only 1/27 of the target speed). At some hotspots such as the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Hong Kong Space Museum and the airport, not only were the Internet access speeds far below 8 Mbps as pledged by the Government, but the service connection was also unstable and the service would be disconnected just several metres away from the hotspots. Moreover, there are other problems such as the uneven distribution of Wi-Fi hotspots and the extremely low usage rates at some Wi-Fi hotspots (e.g. a daily average of only 1.6 users at the Wi-Fi hotspot at the Sai Ying Pun Dermatology and Chest Clinic). On the other hand, as the publicity undertaken by the authorities on the provision of free Wi-Fi hotspots by the Government and public organisations is unsatisfactory, some tourists who have visited Hong Kong for several times have indicated that they are unaware of the availability of free Wi-Fi service at the airport. In the Policy Address delivered last month, the Chief Executive proposed to develop Hong Kong into a smart city. However, some academics have criticised that the Government has been implementing free Wi-Fi service for many years, but such efforts are ineffective, resulting in the Wi-Fi network infrastructure of Hong Kong lagging far behind the level required of a smart city. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether the authorities have looked into the causes of the problems of extremely slow Internet access speeds and extremely low usage rates at the aforesaid Wi-Fi hotspots, and whether these problems are attributable to mismanagement on the part of government departments or the relevant public/private organisations; if they have, of the details; if not, whether they will look into the matter immediately; 

(2) of the recurrent expenditure incurred by the Government on the provision of free Wi-Fi service in each of the past three years; 

(3) of the number of government Wi-Fi hotspots in the two districts of Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin, as well as their distribution and usage rates;
(4) of the average monthly number of users at various government Wi-Fi hotspots in the past three years; whether it will explore ways to boost the usage rates at these hotspots (in particular those with low usage rates) in order not to waste public resources; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; 

(5) whether it regularly conducts tests on the Internet access speeds of the various government Wi-Fi hotspots to see if the target speed has been reached; whether it has plans to raise the Internet access speeds of the Wi-Fi hotspots across the board, and of the measures in place to address the problem of the Internet access speeds at some Wi-Fi hotspots being far below the target; and 

(6) in view of some overseas visitors' ignorance of the availability of free Government Wi-Fi service, of the authorities' new measures to promote free Government Wi-Fi service among the tourists, as well as the manpower and expenditure involved in the task? 


     Our reply to the six parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The connection speed and stability of Wi-Fi services are affected by various environmental factors such as the distance and obstacles between users' mobile devices and the hotspot, interference from other Wi-Fi services in the vicinity, as well as the number of concurrent users and the network traffic, etc.

     The current average connection speed of Wi-Fi services at most government venues reaches 3 to 4 Mbps, which is adequate for supporting general Internet services, such as web browsing, using social media, using instant messaging, sending and receiving email and video watching, etc. Moreover, under the Wi-Fi Connected City programme, we are gradually providing free Wi-Fi service at government venues through the public-private collaboration model. The average connection speed for hotspots in service reaches 8 Mbps.

     In the past year, the overall Wi-Fi usage at all government venues has increased from about 1.35 million users in October 2016 to about 1.42 million users in October 2017. We will monitor the usage at each venue from time to time, and will consider re-deployment of Wi-Fi hotspots when necessary.
(2) The recurrent Internet access fee and maintenance cost for operating public Wi-Fi services by the Government in the past three years are as follows:
Year Expenditure
($ million)
2015 - 16 5.0
2016 - 17 6.1
2017 - 18
(As at end October 2017)
Total 14.9
(3) Under the Wi-Fi Connected City programme, a number of "Wi-Fi.HK" hotspots have been set up in Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin districts, covering shopping malls and shops, youth service centres and study rooms, as well as government venues such as libraries, community halls, major parks and government offices, etc. As at end October 2017, the number of venues and hotspots in Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin districts are as follows:
  Number of Venues Number of Hotspots
Kwun Tong District 200 547
Wong Tai Sin District 124 340
Total 324 887
     Regarding the usage rate, from January to October 2017, the monthly average usage of Wi-Fi hotspots at government venues in Kwun Tong and Wong Tai Sin districts is about 130 900 users. We do not have relevant figures for "Wi-Fi.HK" hotspots operated by service providers and public and private organisations in non-government venues.
(4) In the past three years, the monthly average usage of government venues equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots are as follows:
Year Monthly Average Usage
2015 1 840
2016 2 060
(As at October 2017)
2 230
     We do not have figures of the usage of "Wi-Fi.HK" hotspots operated by service providers and public and private organisations in non-government venues.

     Currently, the Government has set up dedicated websites and mobile applications, setting out the location and opening period of Wi-Fi hotspots to facilitate the public to locate Wi-Fi hotspots in their vicinity through the search function. Furthermore, we have put up signages at venues equipped with hotspots to inform the public of the availability of Wi-Fi services.
(5) We regularly monitor the connection speed and usage of Wi-Fi service at government venues. If necessary, we will adjust the bandwidth and the number of hotspots at the venues in order to ensure the quality of Wi-Fi services.

     With the continuous advancement of Wi-Fi technology, we will gradually adopt the latest Wi-Fi technology standard (IEEE 802.11ac) to reduce signal interference and enhance data transmission speed and stability. We will also require contractors to use high speed network (such as optical fibre network) wherever feasible to provide the public and visitors with more stable services.
(6) We have been promoting the "Wi-Fi.HK" services to the public and visitors through various channels, such as newspapers, magazines, social media, promotion events, etc. We have also been collaborating with the Hong Kong Tourism Board to promote the "Wi-Fi.HK" services to visitors through its website, social media and leaflets, etc.
     The annual expenditure for promoting the "Wi-Fi.HK" is about $750 000 with manpower provided through internal deployment.
Ends/Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:54
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