Co-written by Agnes Wong, Consultant, Johnson Stokes & Master

Originally published in March 2002


An in-building telecommunications system is a telecommunications system installed inside a building or buildings within the same property development for the conveyance of telecommunications and broadcasting signals to the residents or occupants of the building or buildings. Currently, the establishment or maintenance of any means of telecommunications to the public requires a licence and an in-building telecommunications system is no exception.

However once a class licence system is introduced individual licences for such systems will not be necessary provided they comply with the terms of the class licence.

Full Article

A sample of the proposed class licence annexed to the Consultation Paper sets out:

(a) what in-building telecommunications systems it covers;

(b) the qualifications that a person must possess before becoming eligible as a licensee; and

(c) the conditions of the class licence.

Any wireline and/or wireless system used for serving residents or occupiers (excluding equipment for the reception of non-terrestrial broadcasting services) installed within a building or buildings belonging to the same property development and not crossing unleased Government land or public streets are proposed to be governed by the class licence.

However, the class licence will not apply to existing in-building telecommunications systems which are already subject to a telecommunications licence e.g. FTNS or SMATV licences.

Those eligible for a class licence are all the owners of the buildings of the same property development i.e. buildings that are, according to the title deeds (in particular the deeds of mutual covenant), held in common ownership by the owners. The class licence will therefore not cover an in-building telecommunications system connecting two buildings or two property developments covered by different deeds of mutual covenant. Granting class licences to property owners only (as opposed to operators without property interests) should prevent any unco-ordinated installation of in-building telecommunications systems.

Where there is only one owner of a building, the property owner will be the class licensee of the in-building telecommunications system installed within the building. Where there is multiple ownership to a building (which is more typical in residential property developments), and the day to day running of the common parts (in which the in-building telecommunications system is invariably installed) is entrusted to an owners' incorporation, the owners' incorporation will be the class licensee. But if there is no owners' incorporation, then all the registered owners of the building with interest in the common parts will collectively be regarded as licensees.

The class licensees do not need to apply for a licence. It is automatically granted if they fall within the terms of the licence.

Should the property owners engage a third party as the contractor to install and operate the in-building telecommunications systems on their behalf, the third party is not required to obtain a licence for such activities. However, obligations imposed by a class licence cannot be delegated and will rest with the class licensees.

The class licence contains some usual licence conditions for example the requirement to maintain the system in a satisfactory manner, not to cause any interference and obstruction to other telecommunications services or facilities, to take proper and adequate safety measures, etc..

The class licence shall also contain special conditions including the obligation of the class licensee to comply with the directions, guidance notes, codes of practice, technical specifications and statements issued by the Telecommunications Authority from time to time regarding the use of frequency channels within the In-building Coaxial Cable Distribution Systems which are limited and valuable resources. In addition, the class licensee is required to maintain an updated layout plan of the in-building telecommunications system containing at least information relating to the routes of the trunking system, types of cables with capacities and quantities, number of outlets and where applicable, locations of antennae, receiving systems, repeaters, amplifiers, distribution boxes, if any.

Class licencees may apply to the Telecommunications Authority to arbitrate the terms of interconnection between the class licensee and telecom service provider pursuant to Section 36A of the Telecommunications Ordinance.

Any person who wishes to submit views and comments on the Consultation Paper to the Telecommunications Authority should do so on or before 30 April 2002.

The original email legal update is copyright Johnson Stokes & Master at the date written first above. All rights reserved. This publication provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest to our clients and friends. The foregoing is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and is not intended to provide legal advice or a substitute for specific advice concerning individual situations. Readers should seek legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein. Please also read the JSM legal publications Disclaimer.