The 7th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) held in Dubai attracted 470 participants with heads and board members from 100 national regulatory authorities.
The Symosium identified best practice guidelines needed to facilitate the migration of Next Generation Networks (NGN). The 38-point roadmap is designed to encourage regulatory frameworks that foster innovation, investment and affordable access to NGN.
“Our goal is to encourage the design of regulatory frameworks that foster innovation, investment and affordable access to NGNs and that facilitate the migration to NGN and ultimately lead to bridging the digital divide,” said Dr Hamadoun I Toure, ITU Secretary-General. “We believe the best practices adopted at this meeting will ultimately offer the possibility of delivering real benefits to providers and consumers, through cost reduction as well as offering innovative new services”.
The best practice guidelines underscore the importance of embracing the principles of a clear and transparent regulatory process including the adoption and enforcement of rules; technology-neutral and competitive network provision under a coherent approach that address the issues raised by convergence.
The guidelines also call on regulators to adopt forward-looking regimes subjected to regular reassessments to ensure that undue regulatory barriers to competition and innovation are removed. This on-going monitoring would also ensure that users and providers are able to migrate to future networks whenever market conditions are met.
Mohamed Al Ghanim, Director General of the TRA of the UAE and Chairman of GSR 2007 said, “We encourage all to reap the benefits of these guidelines in order to collectively raise the standards of the telecommunications industry.”
Regulators are also urged to adopt investment friendly regulation considered as of paramount importance for the success of NGN network deployment, while maintaining a level playing field and protecting consumer interests. The adoption of flexible but accurate interconnection models are also encouraged to allow smooth transitioning to NGNs.
In particular, participants agreed that regulators should take steps to ensure that the market suffers no undue distortion of competitiveness. In view of the high level of convergence both at the transport and service level, participants felt that there was a risk that NGN providers and operators could be in a position to restrict service level competition to their own advantage.
There was therefore agreement that regulators should be vigilant and monitor any incident that could require a regulatory response in a way that would not act as a deterrent for NGN service providers and operators. Regulators are also asked to keep in mind the need to create regulatory certainty for both incumbent and competing or alternative providers.
“NGN is seen as somewhere between the telecom and Internet worlds, creating a whole new range of issues to be tackled by regulators,” said Mr Sami Al-Basheer Al-Morshid, Director of ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT)”. “The best practice guidelines endorsed by over 100 CEOs and board members of national regulatory authorities come a long way in addressing the issues and provide the way forward for all regulators around the world,” he added.
Because the deployment of NGN will not happen overnight, the best practices encourage regulators to define policies that allow for the co-existence of legacy and IP networks, alternative voice services such as VoIP or bundled services that can offer voice together with TV and Internet also called triple play. In doing so, regulators are to consider applying the same obligations to all operators and providers of telephony services whether traditional irrespective of how they are delivered to consumers, under the symmetrical regulatory approach.
Commenting on the success of the Symposium, Professor Ibrahim Kadi, Senior Advisor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) of Saudi Arabia said, “GSR 2007 met its set objectives of providing networking opportunities and the symposium format facilitated the sharing of knowledge and experiences amongst regulators from all over the world.”
The best practice guidelines cover all aspects of service provision including authorization, access, interconnection and interoperability, numbering and NGN identification systems, universal access, quality of service, consumer awareness, security and protection. The full text is available here.
This year’s event introduced a new feature, Speed Exchanges, to provide additional opportunities for participants to meet informally and exchange views. Topics discussed in the Speed Exchanges included interconnection, the enabling environment, consumer protection, quality of service, regulatory implications of VoIP, why holding public consultation on NGN, international roaming, regulatory issues for convergence and what to do with regulatory bottlenecks.
Speed Exchanges were also held on building confidence and security in the use of ICT as called for by the Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and on the next steps in the negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“The Speed Exchanges proved extremely useful and came at the right time,” expressed Roxanne Maria McElvane, Senior Conselor of International Development at the US Federal Communications Commission International Bureau. “After two days of high-level presentations and discussions, the exchanges allowed us to address specific topics and areas of interest with other regulators from around the world providing greater interaction and networking opportunities.”
The Symposium was organized by ITU and hosted by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates (TRA).