Enabling environment: Affordable access for sustainable development

5 May 2016 09:00h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the WSIS Forum 2016.]

The session focused on how best to leverage existing tools to enrich the dialogue between all stakeholders and strengthen inclusive dialogue and cooperation at national, regional, and global levels.

Mr Kemal Huseinovic (Chief, Infrastructure, Enabling Environment and E-Applications Department, Telecommunication Development Bureau (ITU/BDT)) set the scene for the meeting. His opening remarks focused on a presentation on ITU strategic regulatory tools.

Huseinovic stated that the sustainable development goal (SDG) Action Line 6 is an enabling environment for sustainable access to the Internet where partnerships are enhanced and knowledge platforms made available. He said that the ITU is the sole facilitator for Action Line 6, and governments and the ITU are committed to its implementation. The presentation contained an industry analysis of Internet access where mobile broadband is increasing substantially, thus providing access to unconnected areas. He talked about policy on regulation. Policymakers should ask who, what, where, when, and how to regulate. Enabling a regulatory environment removes barriers to access, and deals with challenges that exist.   

Ms Sofie Maddens (Head, Regulatory and Market Environment Division, ITU/BDT) moderated the session. She shared the tools used to create and support the enabling regulatory and market environment essential for the development of ICTs. The ICT Regulatory Tracker monitors and measures the changes taking place in the telecommunication/ ICT regulatory environment.  Let’s Roam the World is the definition and adaptation of best practices and guidelines for all stakeholders around the world on International Mobile Roaming (IMR) to reduce what is viewed as excessively high mobile roaming retail prices. The project on Universal Service looks at how countries can get affordable Internet to the masses. The Infrastructure Sharing project allows for regional harmonisation and achieving an enabling policy and regulatory framework conducive to infrastructure sharing. Maddens invited participants to the Global Symposium for Regulators 2016 which takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 11-14 May 2016.

Ms Aminata Garba (Director of  African Network Information Center (AFRINIC) and an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University) gave her submissions on infrastructure sharing in West Africa. She noted that every provider in West Africa used to have towers in great locations. Currently, providers are required to share their infrastructure, including the grounds, the antennae, and even active components within their networks, therefore passing the reduced cost of setting up new infrastructure down to the end user. Garba also noted that Mobile Virtual Number Operators (MVNOs) have been set up in West Africa, allowing the MVNO service providers to concentrate on improved services to the end users.

Ms Adriana Labardini (Commissioner, Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), Mexico) noted the reduction in the cost of Internet access services in her region. The charges for long-distance calls have been scrapped, and this has had an impact on increasing Internet penetration. In Mexico, there are 66% Internet users, and mobile broadband connection has increased to 58 million users. Labardini stated that penetration in rural areas has also increased. Mexico allows the lease of spectrum, and guidelines for MVNOs have been put in place. She said Mexico has an LTE band that has been licensed to only sell to MVNOs and other operators. When built in the next two years, the licensed spectrum is expected to reach 92% of the population.

Mr Ilyas Ahmed (Chief Executive, Communications Authority of Maldives) noted that his county has made regulations for infrastructure sharing. As the Maldives is composed of small islands, it is a challenge to have multiple towers in the same area. Therefore, the regulations do not allow having more than one tower on a single island, mostly because distributing the towers serves as redundancy and a backup against natural forces like the tsunami of 2004 which devastated most of the country’s infrastructure. Ahmed stated that increased competition helped make the networks more efficient in terms of cost and distribution. He noted that because competition is very good through the service provider duopoly, infrastructure sharing is embraced by both players. He noted that when the level of competition is not balanced, infrastructure sharing does is not efficient.

Ms Anriette Esterhuysen (Executive Director of Association for Progressive Communications (APC)) stated that APC identifies Internet issues, does proper research, then contacts the regulators with the findings. Currently, APC is working on regulatory environments across the world. She gave an example of the social purpose GSM licence in Mexico which allows small communities to set up their own GSM networks. Esterhuysen noted that infrastructure sharing is a feasible way of improving Internet access but it is not easy. She said research on Africa and Asia showed that a small regulator cannot enforce incumbent telecoms who are very powerful. She also noted that regulators need to work with governments to ensure that building standards, roads, and other public infrastructure are made in a way that can be shared.

Mr David Gomes (Director General, Agência Nacional de Comunicações, Cabo Verde (ANAC)) gave his view on the falling revenues for service providers, and how regulators can minimise risks for investors. He noted that in his country, it is difficult to implement regulations because the incumbent operator is very powerful. He also noted that revenue for operators has gone down because of Over The Top (OTT) services, but operators can make more revenue by leasing their infrastructure.

by Mwendwa Kivuva