Table of Contents

  • We are pleased to present the 9th annual edition of Trends in Telecommunication Reform, which forms a key part of our effort to accumulate, explore and amplify the wisdom of policy-makers and regulators in the ICT sector. As in past editions, this volume attempts to take stock of telecommunications and information technology development in emerging and developing economies. It reports upon many of the successful efforts of governments, operators and service providers to expand the reach of broadband services throughout the world. In that sense, it celebrates consistent progress, in many different countries, toward goals of universal access, broadband network deployment and the greater diffusion of applications, services and content made available through these networks. We are proud to reflect that success in this edition of Trends – and even more proud, as an institution, if we have helped our colleagues in any way to achieve it.

  • The year 2008 began with high hopes for developing countries’ dreams to connect their citizens to information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. Late 2008 saw the number of mobile subscribers rise to an all time high, reaching an estimated 4 billion worldwide. A growing array of broadband wireless systems were now available, opening the way for users in developing countries to access the Internet on mobile phones and other handheld devices. At the same time, more developing countries were deploying national fibre backbones and backhaul networks to transport their growing data-rich traffic. In addition, several new international submarine cable networks were set to connect developing countries to the global network of Internet backbones – just as a group of high-tech entrepreneurs were working to revive plans for a constellation of broadband satellites for the developing world. Indeed, the first half of 2008 presented perhaps the rosiest picture in recent years for the ICT sector in developing countries.

  • Past editions of ITU’s Trends in Telecommunication Reform have explored key regulatory issues such as interconnection, universal access and licensing of domestic service provision. These issues can be seen as making up a first wave of regulatory reform that has been vital to growing the ICT sector in developing countries. This edition, however, addresses a newer, second wave of regulatory reforms designed to promote widespread, affordable broadband access.

  • Many developing countries have either begun, or are about to begin, deploying a range of technologies that will offer broadband access at a local level. These technologies include, among others, W-CDMA, HSDPA and WiMAX. As a result of continued technological development and increasing deployment, prices for communications services to users in developing countries are decreasing and the numbers of users and amounts of usage are gradually increasing. As demand escalates, one or more operators (and in some cases, national governments) will ultimately see a need to build out national fibre networks. As this is an extremely capital-intensive initiative, there likely will be only one or two operators, at least initially, one of which will cover just the main urban markets of the country involved.

  • Mobile telecommunication services have shown impressive market growth in the last decade. In developing countries, in particular, mobile telephony has played a vital role in making voice service available to parts of the population that never before had access to it. But there is still a lot to be done to enhance mobile service competition and to increase market penetration, especially in rural areas.

  • This chapter reviews various spectrum-sharing methods that increasingly are being used to respond to the escalating demand for spectrum, which has been sparked by the seemingly unstoppable surge in new wireless services and technologies. Spectrum sharing encompasses several techniques – some administrative, some technical, and some market-based. Spectrum can be shared in several dimensions: time, space and geography. Limiting transmission power is also a way to permit sharing among low-power devices operating in the spectrum “commons” – as explained later with dynamic spectrum access, which takes advantage of power and interference reduction techniques. Sharing can also be accomplished through licensing and/or commercial arrangements involving spectrum leasing and trading.

  • Broadband Internet access has become commonplace and increasingly affordable in many areas of the world, but that is not yet the reality for most residents of developing countries. Broadband services are either unavailable, or they are almost prohibitively expensive, constituting a barrier to meaningful entry into the global information economy.

  • There has been a tremendous amount of interest around the world recently in functional separation as a regulatory remedy in the telecommunication sector. Functional separation is one of the most drastic and potent regulatory remedies in a regulator’s arsenal. There are enormous implications, not just for the incumbent but also for the regulatory agency in charge of its implementation and enforcement. This chapter explores functional separation, its ramifications, and when, how – or indeed, whether – to implement it.

  • The rapid growth in the number of mobile subscribers across the world over the past decade has dramatically changed the telecommunication landscape. Mobile telephony has become the dominant form of telecommunications in both developed and developing countries, with the number of mobile phones overtaking fixed lines in the majority of countries around the globe. Without doubt, mobile telephony offers huge advantages for individuals, businesses and economies. Nevertheless, the rise of mobile communications has raised at least one troubling issue: international mobile roaming rates. This issue is currently being widely discussed among regulators, operators and end-user associations.

  • Today, telecommunication providers face a new competitive landscape. Significant competition from alternative fixed operators, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) providers, and mobile operators has decreased their voice revenues and lowered their average revenue per user (ARPU) figures. Telecommunication providers are looking to recapture some of their lost revenues through bundled offerings of voice, video, and data – the so-called tripleplay packages.

  • Sharing technologies is a common behaviour among people around the planet. People do it for various reasons – political, economic and social. When they do it intentionally, as part of the usual or normal operation of a service or application, we call this end-user sharing. To be sure, this kind of sharing is commonly a by-product of lower income levels, weak infrastructures, scarcity, or want. But this does not hide the fact that technologies are culturally programmed for sharing.

  • The theme of this edition of Trends in Telecommunication Reform – “Six degrees of sharing” – encapsulates the importance of new market and regulatory strategies that optimize and maximize investment in broadband networks and ICT equipment and services. This is fundamentally a forward-looking perspective – in fact, nearly heroically so, in light of the financial and economic uncertainty that dawned over the globe in September 2008.