|photo credit: ITU/V. martin
Hands-on or hands-off?
Stimulating growth through effective ICT regulation
Joint opening of ITU Global Symposium for Regulators
and the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum
Early November 2009 saw regulators and industry leaders
from around the world gather in Beirut, Lebanon,
to forge common approaches on such critical issues
as revenue sharing in a converged environment, keeping
pace with a fast-changing mix of information and
communication technologies (ICT), and maintaining
regulatory effectiveness in today’s markets.
More than 750 participants took part in ITU’s
9th annual Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR)
on 10–12 November 2009, preceded (at the same
venue) by the 2nd Global Industry Leaders’ Forum
on 9 November. Both events were held under the
patronage of President of Lebanon Michel Sleiman.
They were organized by ITU and hosted by Lebanon’s
Ministry of Telecommunications, and the Lebanese
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
The joint opening ceremony was addressed by
Lebanon’s then Minister of Telecommunications Gebran
Bassil; ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré; Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication
Development Bureau (BDT); the Chief Executive
Officer of the Zain Group Saad Al Barrak, who also chaired the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum; and
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lebanon’s
TRA, Kamal Shehadi, who chaired the GSR.
Dr Touré underlined that the event’s theme — “Hands on or hands off? Stimulating growth through
effective ICT regulation” — was particularly appropriate in the current global economic climate.
“Effective regulation is absolutely crucial. For the ICT industry, it delivers predictability and
stability, and it reduces risk. It encourages investment in ICT infrastructure and rewards competition
and innovative new business models. At the same time, effective regulation protects consumers by delivering
a transparent marketplace and a fair system for resolving disputes,” Dr Touré said.
|photo credit: EADS-ASTRIUM
From left to right: Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau;
Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General; and Saad Al Barrak, Chairman of the 2009 Global Industry Leaders'
Forum and Chief Executive Officer of the Zain Group
Regulators must now also consider issues of cybersecurity, along with their ever-broadening mandate in a
converged world,” Dr Touré stressed. He then drew attention to the Regional Regulatory Associations,
stressing that their role is essential in harmonizing regulatory frameworks to facilitate the development of ICT.
Mr Al Basheer said he was delighted to see so many representatives of regulators and the private sector.
“I am proud that ITU’s BDT can offer this platform for the main actors of our industry to imagine, design,
build and administrate the markets, networks and services that our citizens, businesses and governments
require for their further development,” he said. “Today, every country, no matter what its level of
development, relies on ICT for its economic and social development. The environment that enables new
technologies to be used and shared by all can only be created through regulatory reform,”
Mr Al Basheer added.
Lowering taxes and freeing more spectrum
Speaking on behalf of industry, Mr Al Barrak highlighted the need for continuing dialogue among all
parties. “Today, we are at a crucial juncture in the evolution of the ICT sector: a place where regulators
and policy-makers must join the operators on the same journey because quite simply, our goals cannot be
achieved as long as there exists a ‘them and us’,” he said. Addressing administrations, he said “all we
ask is that you let us drive the business; you can do your bit by providing a fertile and transparent
business environment, one in which operators can grow, and intervene only when our self-regulation falls
Mr Al Barrak stressed the need to promote the roll-out of broadband and to find practical ways to share
infrastructure, as well as to solve what he described as the “contentious universal service obligations”
issue. Industry could do more through public-private partnerships, but first, policy-makers need
“to reassess the traditional attitude towards taxing ICT,” as evidence shows that lowering taxes on
handsets and airtime can increase overall tax revenues.
Governments should also free up more radio-frequency spectrum so that mobile operators can satisfy the
mass demand for broadband. “Only then can we truly realize our vast potential to give the people of the
developing world new lives through freedom of mobility and prosperity. It really is that simple,”
Mr Al Barrak said.
The regulatory environment in Lebanon
|photo credit: ITU/TRA
Kamal Shehadi, Chairman of the 2009 Global Symposium for Regulators and Chairman and
Chief Executive Officer of Lebanon's Telecommunication Regulatory Authority
Mr Shehadi emphasized that regulators should listen to the views of the private sector.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of the private sector as a partner in constantly improving and
fine-tuning ICT regulations through an open and transparent process of public consultations,” he said.
Underscoring TRA’s commitment to inject new energy into Lebanon’s ICT markets, Mr Shehadi said it
“is now ready to move ahead and liberalize mobile, international, and remaining bottlenecks to broadband
telecommunication services in 2010”.
On the mobile front, “TRA is committed to the licensing and privatization of mobile in a manner that
unequivocally establishes the fundamental structure of a competitive market and which allows the
expected new competitor, Liban Telecom, to compete on a level playing field. To this end,
TRA has planned to assign the spectrum necessary for a third operator and has defined a regulatory
framework that favours competition, including the significant regulation of market power, a national
numbering plan and number portability, and infrastructure-sharing,” Mr Shehadi explained.
He added that TRA plans to issue two new national broadband and carrier licences. However,
regulations alone are not enough and the success of broadband liberalization will depend on the commitment
of the Lebanese Government to:
stimulating public demand for broadband through e-education, e-health and e-government;
removing limitations on the reasonable uses of technology, such as authorizing mobility for broadband service providers;
issuing secondary legislation related to rights-of-way and access to public property, as well as fees for the right to use spectrum.