Regulating Wireless Communications Towers: Taiwan’s Experience in Comparative Perspective

How to Cite

Peng, S.- yi. (2009). Regulating Wireless Communications Towers: Taiwan’s Experience in Comparative Perspective. Columbia Journal of Asian Law, 22(2).


As the number of people who own and use mobile telephones grows, more base stations are needed to carry the “traffic.” New features, enabled by the Third Generation Mobile Telecommunication System (“3G”) and Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (“WiMAX”), such as internet access and multimedia services, require more and more information, or data, to be transmitted. The transmission of these large quantities of data increases the requirement for base stations.1 By mid-2007, there were over 50,000 wireless communication towers in Taiwan. Of these, about 26,000 were designed for the Second Generation Mobile Telecommunication System (“2G”), 6,000 for the 3G, and about 16,000 for the Personal Handy-phone System (“PHS”).2

Typically a wireless communication tower consists of an equipment cabinet, an antenna that sends and receives radio waves to and from mobile telephones, and a structure that supports the antenna.3 Each base station provides coverage for a given area. Base stations can be a few hundred meters apart in major cities or several kilometers apart in rural areas.4 The transmitting power of any particular base station is variable and depends on several factors, including the number of calls and the distance between the base station and the mobile telephone making the call. From a legal perspective, those “base stations,” “antenna” and “radio waves” are subject to substantive and procedural rules.5 This paper focuses on the conflict between operators and the community, common approaches used to regulate base stations and their associated problems, as well as the procedural issues of granting permission for cellular tower construction. After examining the regulatory framework for dealing with the construction of cellular towers, I propose some solutions. In particular, I analyze the issues from a procedural perspective, advocating a way forward that will help eliminate some of the problems caused by the conflict between the regulator, the telecommunications industry, and the local community.

[1]  In this article I use the terms “base station,” “cellular tower,” “wireless tower,” and “wireless communications tower” interchangeably.

[2] The Public Statement of the Former Deputy Chief Commissioner of NCC, EPOCH TIMES, available at 1300414.htm (last visited Oct. 20, 2008).

[3] Office of Communications, Audit of Mobile Phone Base Stations – Information Sheet, (last visited Oct. 14, 2008).

[4] Id.

[5] See generally Jeffrey A. Berger, Efficient Wireless Tower Siting: An Alternative to Section 332(C)(7) of The Telecommunications Act of 1996, 23 TEMP. ENVTL. L. & TECH. J. 83 (2004). See also Robyn Durie, Challenges Faced in Providing Mobile Broadband Services, 11 COMPUTER AND TELECOMMUNICATION LAW REVIEW 66-72 (2005).