New Hong Kong Communications Authority Ordinance passed on 30 June 2011

September 2011

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Following in the footsteps of other jurisdictions such as England and Australia, Hong Kong has decided to establish a sole regulatory body called the Communications Authority to oversee the entire electronic communications sector. The convergence of the regulation of electronic communications brings Hong Kong’s laws in line with those in Europe and Australia and acknowledges that with the blurring of lines between the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors in Hong Kong, it is no longer appropriate to maintain separate authorities to regulate these two industries.

At this stage there will be no substantive changes to the existing regulatory and licensing regimes for the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors. However, following the establishment of the Communications Authority a comprehensive review will be carried out by it of the existing regimes, and proposals will be made to update and rationalise the existing laws. Hong Kong is already one of Asia’s most vibrant and competitive markets for electronic communications and it is anticipated that any new regulation will promote further innovation by the existing operators and encourage new market entrants.

The Legislative Council passed the Communications Authority Bill on 30 June 2011. The main purpose of the Ordinance is to establish a new Communications Authority to take over the functions of both the Broadcasting Authority and the Telecommunications Authority. However, the Communications Authority Ordinance (Cap. 616) (Ordinance) has not come into operation and no date has yet been gazetted.

Once the new Ordinance comes into effect, there will no longer be a need to determine which regulator has authority over services which may not fit neatly into the distinct lines of broadcasting or telecommunications. The new Communications Authority will be responsible for administering and enforcing the existing Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562), Telecommunications Ordinance (Cap. 106), and the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Ordinance (Cap. 593). It will have the same powers and functions of both the Broadcasting Authority and Telecommunications Authority.

Our specialist intellectual property and technology team has in-depth experience in advising on all aspects of technology and telecommunication issues throughout the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, we are experienced in advising on relevant regulatory and licensing regimes, and negotiating and drafting large scale technology arrangements. As a leading technology practice in the region, we are well positioned to provide clients with the legal advice they need in order to meet the compliance challenges of the broadcasting and telecommunications industry.