In response to media enquiries relating to the change of the transmission standard proposed by Hong Kong Mobile Television Network Limited ("HKMTV") for the provision of its broadcast-type mobile television service ("Mobile TV Service"), the spokesperson for the Office of the Communications Authority ("OFCA") said today (11 March 2014) :
"By way of background, HKMTV currently holds a Unified Carrier Licence ("UCL") issued under the Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106) ("TO"), authorizing it to provide Mobile TV Service. Paragraph 1.1 of Schedule 1 to HKMTV's UCL specifies that:
"broadcast-type mobile television services mean the services of conveying television programmes operating at the frequencies specified in Schedule 3 with the use of digital broadcasting technologies for reception at moving locations in Hong Kong".
Paragraph 2 of the same schedule further provides that:
"nothing in this licence authorises the licensee...to provide any fixed services using the frequencies specified in Schedule 3";
"nothing in this licence authorises the licensee...to provide any service subject to licensing under any other ordinance" .
HKMTV advises OFCA that it proposes to change the transmission standard from the previous China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting ("CMMB") standard (adopted since the launch of the Mobile TV Service in 2012) to Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcasting ("DTMB") (i.e. the same standard adopted by the incumbent free TV licensees for the provision of digital terrestrial television services in Hong Kong).
In view of the proposed change in transmission standard to DTMB by HKMTV, OFCA advised HKMTV today that the consequence of the change would render HKMTV's Mobile TV Service available for reception by an audience of more than 5,000 specified premises in Hong Kong, thereby triggering the licensing requirement under the Broadcasting Ordinance ("BO") in relation to a domestic free television programme service ("FTV") licence and/or domestic pay television programme service ("PTV"). As HKMTV currently is not a holder of a FTV or PTV licence, OFCA advised HKMTV that if HKMTV wishes to adopt the DTMB standard but is unable to ensure that its television service is not available for reception by an audience of more than 5,000 specified premises, it must take steps to obtain the necessary licence under the BO.
The TO and BO are separate statues which cover different areas, and have been in place for many years. The mere fact that any company holds a UCL does not automatically displace further licensing requirements under the BO if the service the said company intends to provide triggers the licensing requirement there under.
"Given the different transmission standards adopted, it is also not appropriate to compare the previous service of China Mobile Hong Kong Corporation Limited with that intended to be provided by HKMTV," the spokesman added.
As to the alleged approval by the former Telecommunications Authority ("TA") for the adoption of the DTMB standard proposed by then City Telcom (H.K.) Limited, OFCA believes the HKMTV was referring to the qualification exercise conducted by the then TA in February 2010 in relation to the auction of radio spectrum for the provision of mobile TV services.
The objective of the qualification exercise was to finalize the bidders qualified to take part in the spectrum auction. No assessment was made, let alone approval was given by the former TA as to the services/transmission standards proposed by the applicants wishing to take part in the bidding exercise.
Indeed, it was clearly specified in the "Qualified Bidder Notice" issued by the former TA on 17 June 2010 that nothing in the auction or the licence to be issued to the successful bidder shall be construed as an authorisation for the successful bidder to provide any service subject to any other ordinance, including without limitation the BO. Please refer to the link at http://www.ofca.gov.hk/filemanager/ofca/en/content_1290/p_success_bidding.pdf.
It should also be clarified that a broadcast-type mobile TV operator is obligated under its carrier licence to provide coverage for at least 50% of the "population" at moving locations, but not "households" nor "specified premises" under the BO.
The matter is now being handled between OFCA and the HKMTV via their solicitors."
Office of the Communications Authority
11 March 2014