The TMT 2018 guide provides expert legal commentary on key issues for businesses. The guide covers the important developments in the most significant jurisdictions.
Last Updated January 12, 2018
Regulation of the telecommunications, media, and technology (TMT) sector continues to be a key policy issue globally. Over the past few decades, liberalisation has increased competition, mobile networks have succeeded in connecting half of the world’s population, data traffic has superseded voice traffic and is expected to continue to increase dramatically, smartphone adoption is reaching critical mass in developed markets, and Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks are proliferating. In addition, the Internet has transformed the way we live, touching nearly every facet of our lives and influencing every corner of the world.
Against this backdrop, the TMT industry is transforming. Information and communications services increasingly are being provided by transnational and multinational companies. Historically separated markets, such as telecommunications and media and voice and data, are converging and becoming a single market. Content-providers and network operators are vertically integrating, forcing industry participants to rethink their role in the value chain. In many countries, spectrum allocations are failing to keep pace with wireless service demands. While in some respects the digital divide is shrinking, new separations in broadband access and speeds have emerged. The TMT industry is advancing at a swift pace with the rapid progress in cloud-based services, the wireless industry sprinting to 5G adoption, the emergence of global low-Earth-orbit constellations of small satellites promising global internet access and connectivity, and the Internet of Things increasing collaboration, agility, and scale. As these developments make content and services more easily available to anyone and anywhere, geographic borders seemingly are becoming less relevant. Without appropriate security and privacy solutions, however, these potentially revolutionary advances could falter.
In the face of such a rapid pace of technological change, regulators face an understandably daunting challenge. In many cases, officials are seeking to cope with the challenges of convergence and the implications of internet-related growth while at the same time reviewing the continuing viability of liberalisation and competition-based policies. This change is being expressed in many ways around the world — for example, through network neutrality rules; national and regional broadband infrastructure initiatives; spectrum reallocation efforts; a heightened focus on privacy, security, and domestic consumer protection regulation; and, in some cases, an increased role of national governments and intergovernmental organisations in previously unregulated or loosely regulated markets.
This publication is designed to serve as a guide for companies navigating the evolving and sometimes conflicting requirements of multiple sovereigns. It offers a high-level snapshot of selected features of national laws as they currently stand in 21 jurisdictions across the world. It also provides a concise overview of the features of telecommunications, media, and technology regulations that often are of greatest practical significance to businesses, such as licensing requirements, spectrum allocations, opportunities for foreign participation, and preemption of local rules. Each chapter, organised by country, draws on the detailed knowledge of local practitioners to identify the general structure of TMT regulation and ownership in a particular country, as well as particular rules for broadcasting/media, telecom, wireless, satellite, and internet/broadband services. Every chapter also examines the fundamentally important, but often overlooked, policy and regulatory issues associated with managing consumer demand for communications and data. Finally, the chapters describe technology trends and their implications for future policy and regulation. These are issues that have been and will continue to be vigorously debated because they have a crucial influence over the direction of the industry and the success of individual players.
The Purpose and Experience of TMT Regulation
Governments regulate industries in a variety of ways in an attempt to achieve a number of diverse goals. That said, the most fundamental objective of regulation is straightforward: to ensure that everyone has access to reasonable service at reasonable prices. Implementing this objective, however, has never been an easy task.
In the TMT sector, the dominant narrative in global regulatory debates for the past few decades has largely been based on the twin pillars of promoting competition and increasing liberalisation. Generally analogous to the “Washington Consensus” principles that focused on a market-based approach to policy questions, the move in global telecommunications policy since the late 1980s has been away from state-run monopoly service-providers toward a less regulated industry with increased private-sector competition from both domestic and international market players. The liberalisation of telecommunications markets was motivated by various factors, including:
As numerous state-owned telecommunications operators were privatised and a wave of pro-competitive and deregulatory policies swept the world, the number of national telecommunications regulatory authorities increased from 12 to over 100 around the world. Regulatory intervention was believed necessary to ensure that viable competition would emerge. Many countries concluded that the creation of a strong, effective, and independent regulator was beneficial to successful liberalisation.
Today, national regulators have considerable experience in telecommunications. Regulatory objectives have not been altered significantly in recent years. Changing circumstances have made it clear that old models for implementing the objectives need to be updated. Reforms now underway in many countries are being driven by a renewed emphasis on ensuring that services are supplied in a manner consistent with national perceptions of the public interest.
An increasing number of governments have developed separate, national regulatory authorities to oversee the TMT sector. A variety of factors distinguish these authorities, such as: the level of independence of the regulator, funding of the regulatory process, the scope of regulatory authority, and organisation of regulatory staff. In some countries, other government ministries or agencies also may play key roles. For example, a competition authority may have relevant authority in the TMT sector in addition to a sector-specific regulator.
The Regulatory Process
Regulators undertake various responsibilities, including, among others: licensing, management of spectrum resources, access to rights of ways, numbering and portability, standards and protocols, interconnection, addressing anti-competitive behaviour, price regulation, quality of service regulation, universal service, consumer protection, and privacy and security. In doing so, regulators employ a variety of direct procedures. Depending on the legal framework, they may issue various types of regulatory instruments, such as rules, decisions, orders, decrees, policies, notices, or resolutions. In general, these instruments implement regulatory policies, resolve disputes, or deal with other matters within the regulators’ mandate. In addition, government officials generally also have the authority to investigate the actions of regulated entities and to enforce their oversight, including the power to impose sanctions and penalties for violations.