Written by David Ellis (partner) and Stephen Bureaux (solicitor)


On 2 August 2002, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority ("OFTA") issued a Consultation Paper inviting public views regarding the creation of a Class Licence for the provision of wireless Local Area Networks ("LANs") to the public in Hong Kong.

Once a Class Licence is created providers of wireless LAN services to the public will not need their own licence, provided that they operate within the conditions of the Class Licence.

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The Class Licence scheme is intended to cover the provision of telecommunications services, the impact of which does not warrant detailed monitoring and licensing by OFTA. The Class Licences are designed to provide a framework of conditions and requirements for the provision of a particular service, which enables any person who meets the requirements to offer the service without seeking an individual licence from the Telecommunications Authority ("TA"), subject only to the adherence to the conditions. The power given under Section 7B(2) of the Telecommunications Ordinance (the "Ordinance") enables the TA to create Class Licenses without legislative approval, subject only to prior consultation with the public.

The proposed Class Licence for the provision of public wireless LAN services is intended to cover the wireless LANs which have recently become popular to enable office and single premises computer networks to operate without wiring. There are, as mentioned above, a number of proposed requirements a provider of such service must meet in order to obtain the benefit of the Class Licence, and proposed conditions which must be followed in the provision of the services. These include (though are not limited to) limitations on the range of the wireless network, a prohibition against the equipment causing interference to individually licensed services, a similar requirement that the apparatus used must be able to tolerate interference from other similar apparatus, a bandwidth limitation, a requirement to provide the services in a satisfactory manner, and a requirement to publish tariffs.

Interested parties are invited by the Telecommunications Authority to comment on the proposal, prior to finalisation of the licence. The deadline for any such comments is 15 September 2002.

OFTA have also announced along with the new Class Licence, a new generally applicable exemption arrangement will come into force whereby any person or persons who possess, use, establish or maintain any telecommunications apparatus (who under Section 8(1)(b) of the Ordinance would otherwise require a licence) will be exempted from the requirement for a licence so long as they do not make use of the apparatus to provide a public telecommunications service (i.e. a service to third parties as opposed to for example a company's own employees). Previous experience in dealing with licence applications had shown that OFTA has applied such an exemption unofficially in the past, however, it is only now being made law.

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