Table of Contents

  • It is with great pleasure that I present this special edition of Trends in Telecommunication Reform released on the occasion of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) 2014. Since the first edition appeared more than a decade ago, Trends has documented “and in many cases predicted” a truly amazing era of technological advancement and market change in the global telecommunication sector. The world’s developing economies have been pioneers of much of this change “this edition’s chapter on digital transactions provides just one example” and certainly they have had much to do with the mobile service revolution that has defined our times. Trends has been there to help make sense of the rapid evolution of information and communications technologies (ICTs), focusing on the major actors and impacts across the globe.

  • The Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is pleased to present this special edition of Trends in Telecommunication Reform, which spotlights the theme of “Fourth-Generation Regulation: Driving Digital Communications Ahead.” This theme of an evolved and re-conceived regulatory environment for information and communications technologies (ICTs) was explored extensively at the Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) held in July 2013, in Warsaw, Poland.

  • The information and communication technology (ICT) sector continues to experience remarkable changes. The ever-expanding digital world touches nearly all aspects of our modern lives. Today, access to online services is vital in order to find a job, receive a salary, pay bills and taxes, vote, learn and make individual and business decisions.

  • Regulation, regulation, regulation. You cannot pick up a newspaper, turn on your TV, or review the Internet news without being aware that regulation is a key topic in the press. There are stories on regulation of the finance sector stemming from the global financial crisis. There are articles on regulation of the press (by the press!), ever since the “phone hacking” case in the United Kingdom. And with the world’s population clock indicating just over 7 billion people “increasing by the hour” issues of how and what to regulate are becoming more relevant. Governments are facing increasing social and economic issues. Pressures are building on the provision of health care, education, and policing, as well as on goals for employment, environmental protection and economic growth.

  • The term TV White Spaces usually refers to unoccupied portions of spectrum in the VHF/UHF terrestrial television broadcasting frequency bands. In some countries, trials and tests are under way to improve the utilization of this highly valued spectrum resource by implementing sharing between the primary television service and other services. Broadband wireless applications are the main focus of sharing trials, but sharing is also being considered for other applications, such as machine-to-machine communications (M2M). The common pattern involved with all these alternative wireless applications is their low-power nature, which makes them well-suited for operation under a licence-exempt regulatory framework.

  • As the “Dotcom (“.com”) Bubble” burst in the early 2000s, incumbent telecommunication operators sought to improve their market positions by developing what came to be known as next-generation networks (NGNs). These were (and are) packet-switched networks based on Internet Protocol (IP), which allowed the operators to maintain the guaranteed quality of service common to legacy, circuit-switched voice networks, while improving efficiency, lowering costs and facilitating the introduction of new services. NGNs were designed to protect incumbents’ profitability for as long as possible. In short, they were the dam holding back the rising tide of the Internet.

  • Convergence in the telecommunication environment has been discussed for more than 20 years; it is now very real. While there is no universal definition of convergence, it is generally understood to mean the use of different platforms or networks to deliver the same service — for example, the delivery of content over broadcast (over-the-air) TV, cable, satellite or the Internet. It might also mean the delivery of a range of services by a single player, facilitated by digital delivery. Examples of this would be triple- or quadruple play packages that give consumers access to voice, data and TV over the same platform or by the same service provider. This technical convergence, and the digital revolution in delivery of content, has led to the introduction of a range of new technologies and services.

  • Virtually everyone predicts that the mobile payments industry is on the verge of rapid growth around the world, and it is easy to find compelling reasons to agree. The number of service launches is accelerating, the breadth and sophistication of the services is expanding, and the volume of transactions is growing at a rapid pace. Moreover, those services seem to be meeting real consumer needs and providing real benefits to users — not just ones dreamt up in research labs or marketing meetings.

  • To borrow from an old saying, the global information and communications universe we live in daily is not your grandfather’s telecommunication sector. Indeed, the profusion of media, applications, devices, capabilities – and yes, challenges – that has arisen in this century is not something that even our parents would have recognized 15 years ago. So fast have the “generations” of new technologies come and gone that we can speak of “3G” and “4G” networks having arrived before our children, born in the “2G” era, have even left school.