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The Global Industry Leaders’ Forum
The Global Industry Leaders’ Forum focuses on securing a wireless future and on "light touch" regulation
 
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Photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
 

Executive summary

Wireless technology will play a critical role in achieving ubiquitous broadband coverage. In particular, mobile broadband will be essential to the delivery of services such as m-health and m-learning, which will be instrumental in enabling governments to meet, by 2015, the connectivity targets of the World Summit on the Information Society and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Increasing broadband use by 10 per cent is estimated to increase a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by more than 1 per cent. Broadband is considered to be a key enabler for the digital economy, but a delay in spectrum allocation could impede growth.

To secure a wireless future, governments should formulate comprehensive policy in information and communication technologies (ICT), incorporating a broadband plan. Regulators and policy-makers need to ensure that regulation is in place that will encourage and enable operators to continue rolling out infrastructure, including broadband networks, not only in urban areas, but also in rural and remote areas where people have little or no service.

These were some of the key messages from the Global Industry Leaders’ Forum (GILF-10), held on 9 November 2010 at the Méridien President Hotel in Dakar, Senegal. GILF-10 took place just prior to the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR), held at the same venue from 10 to 12 November 2010. Both events shared a common theme: “Enabling Tomorrow’s Digital World”.

The Forum was opened by Fatou Ndiaye Diop Blondin, Senegal’s Minister of Information and Communication Technologies and featured interactive discussions between representatives from leading industry players including Alcatel-Lucent, Bharti Airtel, Ericsson, France Telecom-Orange, the GSMA, Intersat Africa Ltd, MTN, SES and Zain. More than 200 industry leaders discussed and answered a string of questions on the topics of “Securing a wireless future” and “creating a ’light touch’ policy and regulatory environment”.

The tremendous interest in wireless network development and the notion of “light touch regulation”, expressed during the 2009 Global Industry Leaders’ Forum, led to the choice of these topics for discussion by the Forum in 2010. Recommendations endorsed by the Forum were presented by its Chairman to GSR for consideration when developing its 2010 Best Practice Guidelines. The recommendations, some of which are highlighted here, were also disseminated to other regulators and policymakers globally.

Framing the issues

Addressing the opening ceremony of the Forum, Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) underlined that industry, governments and regulators had major interests in common. “We are all striving towards the same goal: a growing and vibrant ICT sector,” he said. “If, by working together, we manage to extend the benefits of ICT to as many people as possible across the world, we stand to win. We have seen that the fastest growing ICT markets are the emerging markets, in particular in mobile. We now need to work together to extend this progress to broadband network expansion, to create a platform for innovative new services such as m-banking, m-government, m-health and other services.”

        
Fatou Ndiaye Diop Blondi
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Fatou Ndiaye Diop Blondin
Senegal’s Minister of Information and Communication Technologies
 
Mahfoudh Ould Brahim
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Mahfoudh Ould Brahim
Chairman of GILF-10 and Deputy Director-General of Expresso, Senegal
 
Isabelle Mauro
photo credit: ITU/V. Martin
Isabelle Mauro
Head of External Affairs at GSM Association, which represents nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem

Ms Diop Blondin was pleased to note that the items on the Forum’s agenda were particularly geared towards reducing obstacles to investment in ICT in developing and least developed countries. “You will, I am sure, agree with me that while the State is responsible for putting in place the legal and regulatory framework for ICT services, the private sector that you represent should be at the forefront of the thinking and innovative proposals aimed at ensuring that we are able, together, to identify the best solutions.”

In Senegal, the Head of State, President Abdoulaye Wade, attaches a high priority to ICT and to the role of the private sector as a driver for growth and digital development. “The Government of Senegal, which I have the honour to represent here, is listening to what you have to say and is committed to supporting the recommendations arising from your deliberations,” concluded Ms Diop Blondin.

Mahfoudh Ould Brahim, Chairman of GILF-10 and Deputy Director-General of mobile operator Expresso, Senegal, stated that “The increasingly exponential needs of communication services in terms of frequency spectrum, particularly where wireless broadband and total mobility services are concerned, call for a comprehensive revision of the policies hitherto pursued with respect to the allocation of scarce frequency resources”. To this end, we need to reflect on appropriate ways and means for establishing an optimized apportionment solution to accommodate the various beneficiaries and services, ensure access to the resources in question under equitable and transparent conditions and foster innovation in the interests of efficient spectrum usage.

Mr Ould Brahim went on to say that “At another level, we need to start looking at the impact that fiscal policies have on the development of the telecommunication industry in order to appreciate the ways in which taxation systems influence telecommunication sector growth, the mobilization of private investment and access to information and communication technologies for the greatest number of users”.

Isabelle Mauro, Head of External Affairs at GSM Association, observed that while mobile communications had literally transformed the world over the previous 20 years, they were now in the process of revolutionizing it through the phenomenon of mobile broadband. “With 3.5 billion users foreseen by 2015, there was now an extraordinary opportunity for accelerating the pace of growth in many developing countries and enabling their populations to open up to a better future.”

Ms Mauro continued by pointing out that the industry, for its part, was pursuing its commitment through massive investment worldwide. “At the G20 in 2009, the industry announced an investment of USD 800 billion over the next five years, with USD 550 billion of that amount earmarked solely for broadband. That investment will make for a 3 to 4 per cent increase in global GDP and the creation of 25 million jobs.” Such a commitment on the part of the industry called for sustained attention on the part of all governments and regulators, which she summarized in the form of three measures:

A relaxation of the regulatory framework: A recent study by McKinsey had concluded that the monthly per-user cost of broadband was 75 per cent lower for consumers in a regulatory environment which favoured investment — in other words, an environment that was transparent, stable and predictable. It was therefore important for regulators to draw up a clear overview of their regulatory objectives so as to enable economic players to continue to innovate and invest in broadband.

Allocation of the spectrum required for the development of new servicestaken by the World Radiocommunication Conference taken by the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in 2012 and beyond would be crucial to the success of broadband. It was essential that governments should foresee the allocation of more frequencies for mobile use and draw up a harmonized road map for freeing up spectrum and thereby contributing to economies of scale worldwide.

Reduction of mobilespecific charges: Many countries still appeared to be charging for mobile services as if they were a luxury product, resulting in a higher end cost to the consumer.

Recommendations on securing a wireless future

Governments should rethink the way spectrum is allocated in order to find ways of providing new services, including broadband at affordable prices, to the growing number of users around the world. In particular, governments should allocate more spectrum to mobile use and develop a harmonized road map for the release of such additional spectrum.

Governments should ensure that spectrum is allocated on a technology-neutral basis so that the industry can continue to modernize networks and maximize their efficiency.

Governments, with the support of ITU, should harmonize spectrum allocation and use at regional and global levels to provide predictability to operators as well economies of scale, recognizing that if frequency is fragmented this comes at a price for consumers, and that harmonization is required for a more efficient use of the “digital dividend” spectrum.

Operators, broadcasters, public spectrum users and regulators should engage in real dialogue on how to use the digital dividend spectrum in order to provide customers the services they need, with ITU playing a bigger role in assisting developing countries to enable all concerned stakeholders to engage in this dialogue.

Governments should acknowledge that fair access to spectrum is one of the key factors to ensure viable and sustainable service and competition, and they should make spectrum available in a manner that makes serving rural areas economically viable for operators.

Regulators, working with ITU where appropriate, should review spectrum use and the future requirements of mobile and non-mobile applications, and should establish mechanisms that provide incentives for efficient use of spectrum.

Recommendations on creating a “light touch” policy and regulatory environment

Regulators should continue to promote fair competition and intervene only in cases of market failure. For example, an incumbent monopoly might be protected if it is to be privatized or required to open up to competition, but new entrants should be allowed to operate unencumbered and unthreatened by any abuse of dominance.

Light touch regulation, which should be predictable and stable, should focus more on overseeing licence compliance and anti-competitive behaviour than on strictly controlling all operational steps undertaken by operators.

Governments should remove mobile-specific levies and fees that distort the market and stifle growth in the sector. In particular, they should review any taxes or charges that directly impede connection to mobile networks, and they should reduce or eliminate taxation on communications, as well as import duties on handsets, as these duties can keep the retail cost of mobile phones beyond the reach of many consumers.

Regulators and policy-makers should establish dialogue with their peers in other sectors of the economy, such as health, education, transport and finance in order to create an enabling environment for the introduction and adoption of new, innovative ICT applications in those sectors… A regional approach to regulatory issues should also be encouraged.

In many countries of the developing world, governments and regulators should use the universal service obligation (USO) Fund to cover rural and remote areas in order to promote affordability and coverage in those areas. In some countries, USO subsidies have been collected from operators, but remain largely unused because there are no effective mechanisms for their disbursement. In these cases, governments, regulators and operators should work in partnership to put in place transparent mechanisms for the management and redistribution of the USO Fund.

Governments, regulators and operators should look for innovative ways of promoting community access to empower people in rural areas to join the rest of the virtual world. For example, community access points, such as rural Internet kiosks, can create a chain reaction, leading to demand for more connectivity throughout rural areas and hastening the development of local economies.

 


The full recommendations of the Forum are available at:
www.itu.int/ITU-D/partners/GILF/2010/documents/GILF-recommendations-en.pdf

 

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