Basel, 1 December 2015
On the invitation of the Switzerland’s Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) and Federal Office of Communications (Ofcom), FRATEL held its 13th annual meeting, this time devoted to the topic: “What impact does network convergence have on electronic communications regulation?” The meeting took place in Basel, Switzerland, on 30 November and 1 December 2015, with more than 90 participants representing the 21 member regulators of the network of telecommunications regulators from French-speaking countries, international institutions (ITU, European Commission) and the sector’s stakeholders (operators, equipment suppliers and consultants).
The meeting was opened by Messrs Abayeh BOYODI, President of FRATEL and Director-General of ART&P in Togo, and Marc FURRER, President of ComCom, Switzerland. In their introductory speeches, each in turn stressed that it is the job of public authorities and regulators to create a regulatory framework that is adapted to new technologies and attractive for investors, and an environment that stimulates the development of electronic communications networks. Regulation must be able to meet the challenges created by the price, sales and technical convergence that has become so prevalent in service plans, including over-the-top (OTT) ones, and by network convergence.
Moderated by Mr Marc FURRER, President of the Swiss Federal Communications Commission, the first roundtable was devoted to the convergence of electronic communications networks and other network-based economic sectors. Éric JAMMARON, of operator Axione, stated that network convergence was being enabled by access to existing infrastructures such as electric networks, and the pressure that the regulator was putting on operators. By way of example, he cited the obligation imposed on the incumbent carrier to make its civil engineering infrastructure and its optical fibre backhaul network available to the competition. Mr Sidy DIOP of Microeconomix spoke first about the development of submarine cables in Africa, which are helping to improve Internet connectivity on the continent. As did Mr MEYER of Arteria, a subsidiary of RTE and EDF, he pointed to current plans for and advantages of using the electric system to deploy fixed and mobile high-speed access, thanks to access to optical fibre, “high points” for relay towers and radio systems, and bandwidth for electronic communications operators, in part to compensate for the poor telecom networks in certain countries.
For his part, Mr Frédéric GASTALDO of Swisscom Energy Services provided two examples of telecom networks being used to improve how other networks perform, thanks to the use of smart equipment for producing electricity, and information collected from smartphones connected to the network to create more fluid motorway networks and adapt traffic control devices in real time. For Mr Peter GRÜTTER of the Association Suisse des Télécommunications, the challenge is to create intelligent regulation that enables the global interoperability required by the digitisation of societies and economies. Lastly, Mr Jacques PROST of ILR spoke of the current legal tools available in Luxembourg, such as infrastructure sharing to avoid economically wasteful duplication, and of measures that were in the works, notably the new European directive that requires other networks to make their civil engineering available to telecom operators, to lower the cost of deploying ultrafast networks by providing access to existing infrastructures, including those belonging to other network-based enterprises (electricity, gas, water, railway, etc.), as well as coordinating civil engineering works, which represent 70% of network rollout costs.
The second roundtable, moderated by Mr Marius Catalin MARINESCU, President of ANCOM in Romania, discussed the topic of regulating the new digital ecosystem born of network convergence, and the digitisation of content and services. The discussions was introduced by Dr Adrienne CORBOUD FUMAGALLI of Switzerland’s ComCom spoke, on the one hand, of the digitisation of society – which has resulted more in the fragmentation rather than the convergence of user behaviours, such as media consumption which has become non-linear and mobile, the development of social networking and the Internet of Things – and, on the other hand, of the support needed from infrastructures to make these changes possible. Mr Axel DESMEDT, Member of the Board of Belgian regulator, IBPT, shared the history of coaxial cable regulation in Belgium. To increase service-based competition and prevent a duopoly between the incumbent carrier and cable companies, IBPT imposed an activated solution on the incumbent carrier, which included multicasting, and opening up the coaxial cable system to the competition for the supply of analogue and digital television, and the resale broadband access. He also raised the issue of the bottleneck that could be created by access to “premium” content. Mr Ivan REJON of Ericsson and Mr Benny SALAETS of UPC Cablecom, called for effective regulation in this new convergent environment, which takes into account the degree of competition and includes all market players, to wit OTT vendors as well, while also enabling, on the one hand, investments in the network and innovation and, on the other, guaranteed protection of end users’ data. According to Mrs Ikram JEBABLI of INTT, the Tunisian regulator will need to use several tools to tackle the challenges posed by convergence, including analysis of the wholesale market for broadband and superfast broadband access, measuring the quality of fixed services and issuing 4G licences. Finally, Mr Justin Aimé TSANGA EBODE, of ART in Cameroon, outlined the new institutional framework for the electronic communications sector in Cameroon, which adopted regulation for the convergence era, to satisfy the sometimes conflicting needs and interests of market stakeholders and end users.
The final roundtable, moderated by Mr Abayeh BOYODI, President of FRATEL and Director-General of ART&P in Togo, and introduced by Mr Abdelaziz TIB of ANRT in Morocco, explored the regulatory tools and potential changes to regulation, to keep pace with fixed-mobile convergence and the shift towards all-IP networks, and to encourage operators to offer more and more services to end users. Mr Jacques STERN, Member of the Board of ARCEP in France and Mr Remy FEKETE, a partner in the legal firm, Jones Day, recalled that it is up to regulation to lift barriers and facilitate, if not encourage, the fixed-mobile convergence trend by ensuring the neutrality of access to infrastructures. In France, this has materialised through opening up the local loop to provide all manner of services, and the backhaul network to relay traffic from mobile sites connected over optical fibre at no added charge. In emerging countries, in addition to introducing solutions for sharing or pooling passive infrastructures, regulatory measures could also encourage connection and backhaul for operators’ BTS. Wi-Fi is becoming a focal point of convergence between fixed and mobile services, and regulations must help stimulate these innovative network rollout solutions. Mr Philipp METZGER, Director of Ofcom in Switzerland, wants to see equal treatment given to OTT operators and traditional operators, and for regulation to address the issues of network security, data protection, universal service on mobile networks and IP interconnection between fixed and mobile operators. Mr Omar IBRAHIM of the Egyptian regulatory authority presented a method for calculating call termination rates based on on-net retail prices, to avoid cross-subsidies and margin squeezes. Lastly, after offering a reminder of the disparate state of fixed and mobile network deployments in the different countries, Mr Vincent ROGER-MACHART, Managing Partner at Tactis, stressed the role that public authorities and regulators can play in encouraging investments in NGA infrastructure and the terrestrial backbone network, and the variety of possible regulatory mechanisms that are available, as much in the arena of infrastructure sharing as enabling access to active and passive network infrastructures.
The annual meeting also provided the opportunity to appoint the new coordinating committee – which, for 2016, will be composed of ANRT, Morocco (President), ART&P Togo, and Ofcom, Switzerland (Vice-presidents) – and to adopt the network’s annual report for 2015 and action plan for 2016, which includes a seminar next spring in Cotonou, Benin, on “What concrete solutions are available, notably infrastructure sharing, for furthering regional digital development?”, and the annual meeting in Luxembourg in the second half of the year, devoted to the topic of “how to enable efficient electronic communications network rollouts?”
Basel, 1 December 2015