“The future is here: A new era for regulation”

Dear Minister, distinguished guests from Greece and abroad, ladies and gentlemen,



It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the EETT 8th International Conference. Our discussion today will focus on the regulatory challenges arising in the electronic communications market in Europe and internationally, on the transition towards a "smart" digital ecosystem. 



In the next sessions, we will be discussing the following:

  • how the new digital ecosystem is defined, what the parameters  are that characterize it and how it affects contemporary people;
  • in which way technology shapes the regulatory agenda and how regulation may best contribute to the smooth transition to an interconnected economy and society.



The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said that “the soul never thinks without a picture” which, as you know, is worth a thousand words. I will therefore try to present, using mostly images and practical examples, a brief but comprehensive and holistic vision of the digital world of the future. I will start by showing you a picture of the first analog computer in history, the famous mechanism of Antikythera, an ancient artifact and instrument of astronomical observations. Starting from ancient Greece, we were driven, through a long technological evolution, to the digital world of today.

The future is here

 

The emerging digital ecosystem is characterized by user mobility, universal broadband coverage and ubiquitous communications. Smart devices using sensors communicate with the environment, with other machines and with the user to whom data is transferred over telecommunication networks via multiple terminal devices, such as TV sets, laptops, mobile phones or tablets. Nowadays consumers can always be online, regardless of their location, whether at home, at work, in town or while traveling around the globe, which now becomes a large interconnected neighborhood.



Citizens become “digital” by using many smart applications, such as digital identity cards, digital health cards, digital wallets, digital paper and electronic keys.The internet access devices are now wearable as clothes, watches or glasses. Through applications of augmented reality, these devices are able to provide consumers with information about shopping deals, guidance on navigation and real-time information about transport or tourist attractions.

Via a smart phone, users can remotely control home automation and monitoring systems, such as camera surveillance, alarm systems’ control, heating and cooling, lighting, automatic plant watering and so on.



In the education sector, advanced interactive applications of digital classroom fundamentally transform the learning process, either at school or by enabling teaching via distance-learning technologies.



By employing teleconferencing and tele-presence facilities, citizens and business executives are now able to communicate with each other and with other entities, without having to travel or to be physically present at a specific location, thus saving considerable time and costs.



At urban level, smart traffic management allows traffic and city lights to cost-effectively adjust their operation to actual traffic conditions. Connected cars share internet access to other devices both inside and outside the vehicle by providing the driver with information on traffic incidents, notification of location or speeding. Additionally, the public transport schedules may be dynamically adjusted based on ridership.

Via smart grids energy production and consumption becomes progressively more efficient. Cities will be able to use and buy in real time, just as much energy as required per case. The electricity charges could therefore vary depending on the consumption and consumer profiling, while the electricity suppliers will provide customized deals.

Broadband as an enabler

 

However, in order for all these innovative applications to constantly and seamlessly reach each one of us, a robust network infrastructure is required. High-speed broadband networks, fixed (FTTC, FTTH...) and mobile (4G, LTE), providing adequate capacity to carry big volumes of data, should be made available everywhere to everyone at affordable prices.



Today, millions of subscribers in Europe (Netherlands, Sweden...) and around the world (Japan, South Korea, USA, Australia), are connected via high speed fixed broadband fiber networks. Equally, mobile networks are rapidly expanding. Currently there are 163 LTE networks in 70 countries around the world with 100 million users, with 90% of these located outside Europe (USA, South Korea, Japan, Canada and Australia). Recently in Asia the first testing of 5G networks with speeds over 1 Gigabit/second has been announced.



In this dynamic environment, if we actually want Europe to play an active role in future developments, major investments are needed for NGA network deployment, along with appropriate regulatory policies and measurable objectives, as those set by the Digital Agenda 2020.



In the next sessions of the conference we will debate on the appropriate regulatory initiatives required to create investment opportunities in new networks as tools to provide innovative services. We will try to evaluate the lessons to be learned by Europe from other jurisdictions. Our distinguished speakers will exchange views on the US experience that has adopted a deregulatory approach, compared to Asian countries that have decisively promoted broadband on industrial policy considerations. We will also share experiences from the rapid development of mobile networks in Africa, where fixed network penetration is very low, since we have the pleasure of having with us representatives from the Regulatory Authority of Kenya.

In the same direction, we will present tools for assessing the availability, coverage and performance of networks, as well as their ability to support high-quality broadband services. Our Authority, EETT, has developed, in cooperation with the M-LAB consortium, “Hyperion”, a consumer-centric measurement tool for broadband performance, which we will demonstrate today. Such measurement tool may be used mainly by citizens and also by regulators. Hyperion enables users to make informed choices of their service provider based on several criteria. The system allows users to compare the advertised nominal speed versus the real speed of their broadband connection, the ratio between upload/download speed, the availability and quality of service and to perform real time measurements of latency and jitter.

The interconnected active citizen

 

Nowadays, citizens are able to work, communicate, buy and sell goods and services, get informed and entertained through access to interactive content services. Technological convergence allows us to watch TV on our mobile phone, read digital books and newspapers, post videos, photos and reviews of movies, hotels or restaurants store them in the cloud and constantly interact through social networking platforms.



In the new digital ecosystem, the previously passive consumer acquires voice, can bypass intermediaries and specialists, such as analysts, food tasters or movie critics, and become an active citizen, creator and producer of content. Printing gave humanity the written word while the web makes everyone a publisher. Each one of us actively participates and expresses his opinion in a participatory democracy when leaving his digital fingerprint on the Internet, Citizens may organise public campaigns on various matters that name and shame offenders of the rules.



This is however the positive side of the coin. The development of networks and services includes both risks and threats, raises questions and triggers reflection. What will happen, for example, with those of our fellow citizens who have no physical access to networks, either due to residence in remote areas or due to lack of technological education? By what concrete measures the social exclusion of the elderly and digitally illiterate can be prevented?

 

From a philosophical and sociological point of view, it is appropriate, I think, to ask ourselves if we actually want every action of our natural world to have a digital representation. For example, instead of telling ourselves bedtime stories to our children, do we really prefer to assign this task to our mobile phones which read digital pajamas? Is it acceptable whenever we clink our microchip-equipped glasses with someone in a bar to become automatically friends with him on social networks? Please note that such products are already sold in the market.

Or, do we want to capture personal, family moments in photographs or video and expose them to a digital environment that is beyond our control? Finally, are we willing to share our digital footprint, every financial transaction, every aspect of our consumer preferences or private life with advertisers enabling them to apply targeted marketing campaigns?

8th EETT International Conference

Speech of Dr. Leonidas Kanellos EETT President & BEREC Chair

The critical role of Regulators

 

Irrespective of any personal views on technology, the rising new era generates disruptive and transformative changes in the market and the society. New professions are created, new business models emerge, new standards of social behavior are set and new regulatory paradigms are required.



To ensure a smooth transition to the new era, it is necessary to properly redefine the rules of the game for government, industry, investors, business and citizens. This task mainly remains with policymakers and regulators who are constantly invited to effectively balance conflicting interests.


On one hand, we, regulators strive to attract investment so as to ensure the proper and timely upgrade of fixed and wireless networks, implement European policies on electronic communications, facilitate the efficient use of radio spectrum and support initiatives promoting innovation and entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, we seek to meet government expectations regarding revenue generation from the auctioning of scarce national resources such as frequencies, numbers and rights of way. In addition, we also contend to meet the expectations of consumers who legitimately demand high quality services at affordable prices. This goal can only be achieved through the proper functioning of competition between incumbents and alternative operators, with both sides having diametrically different expectations from the regulatory policy.

New challenges for regulation

 

Given the rapid changes in the technological environment and industry structure, regulation faces new challenges. Based on an ITU 2011 survey of 158 regulators around the globe, national regulatory authorities have traditional competences related to price control, interconnection, licensing, spectrum management and monitoring, cyber security, broadcasting content, network resilience and so on.



In the new digital ecosystem new issues are constantly emerging, outside of the traditional jurisdictions of the regulatory authorities, requiring appropriate and effective regulatory solutions. These include, among others, privacy-related matters, such as the unfair monitoring of the information posted in websites or social networks by unauthorized persons, as well as tracking down the subscribers’ movements through dynamic processing of location data by mobile network operators. Other critical issues are security of communications and electronic transactions, necessary measures against fraud and cyber-criminality, anti-spamming rules and measures to combat illicit reproduction of intellectual property.

In this new context, it is useful to identify some of the objectives that, in our view, regulation is required to balance, so as to create a level playing field in the market and increase consumer confidence in the new ecosystem, such as:



Open Access, which allows all providers, regardless of whether they operate in horizontal or vertical markets, to gain access to advanced network infrastructures, foster entrepreneurship under fair and non-discriminatory terms and ensure fair competition at the service level.



Net Neutrality requires uninterrupted data traffic over the Internet and must be accompanied by interconnectivity of networks and interoperability of devices, so that they can be connected to all networks, providing seamless access to electronic communications services to the consumer.



Effective management of the radio spectrum, a scarce resource that is characterized as the "oxygen" of the interconnected economy, remains a fundamental prerequisite for the success of the digital switchover. 



In this direction, regulators have to auction spectrum usage rights for longer periods of time to encourage investment, ensure the full utilization of the digital dividend, encourage practices of authorized shared access and support the release of new frequency bands for 4G and in the near future, 5G networks. Moreover, it is vital to promote technological neutrality, flexible exploitation of unlicensed bands and to encourage dynamic spectrum allocation, depending on demand.



The complementarity between the various regulatory jurisdictions for the holistic response to the challenges ahead is of equal importance. The cooperation of regulators for electronic communications with competition authorities as well as with institutions dealing with privacy and security, will contribute to the effective regulation of the ecosystem without conflicts or overlaps between various competences while facilitating “one stop shop” procedures for market players operating globally.



The convergence of regulatory and technological approaches will be accelerated by the inclusion of broadband in the universal service, so as to guarantee every citizen access to the Information Society. In my view, broadband access is not simply a service but also part of a mission. Such universal access policy may be facilitated through the use of efficient financing mechanisms, either through the market, as for instance through universal broadband funds, where all operators contribute their fair share, or through state aid schemes directly financing operators entrusted with this mission.



Consumer protection is key factor for the proper functioning of the market. In this respect, it is necessary to establish a set of harmonised consumer rights a Consumer Charter,  that are generally applicable and make it obligatory for companies to be transparent online and electronically contactable; create clearly identified points of contact for consumers with the power to investigate and sanction any consumer rights’ violations.



Privacy protection needs to accompany the development of high-speed networks that will provide seamless service to the customer. Privacy policies have to be considered as fair business practices by operators. Particular action is also required to protect children from cyber criminality, cyber bullying and from access to harmful and illegal content through content filtering, rating, hotlines etc.



New forms of copyright protection have to be adopted, through innovative forms of licensing towards a single content market.

From a European perspective, the role of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) is pivotal. BEREC provides high level expertise, ensuring better coordination between stakeholders and harmonization of regulatory practices across Europe. Internationally, BEREC cooperates with other regulators in the world by sharing experiences and regulatory know-how.

Our strategy and work plan focuses on the development of next generation access networks. At the same time, we strive to empower and protect the rights of consumers, especially to ensure equal access to the Information society for users with disabilities. Through our coordinated approach, we contribute to the development of a competitive electronic communications market.
In order to reduce the deployment cost of new networks, we encourage the joint performance of civil works, the collocation of equipment and the infrastructure sharing among operators.

The contribution of BEREC has proved to be of critical importance, as shown by the high quality work and advice that has already been delivered.  It's role is expected to increase in the years to come, as BEREC gains further acceptance by European institutions and market players.

Conclusions

In the new digital reality that we have described, regulators play a key role in encouraging new broadband infrastructure that will enable the launching of innovative digital services under conditions of fair competition.



We strongly believe that regulation should provide stability, predictability and long term perspective for the investors, while it also needs to be flexible, sense the markets pulse and constantly adapt to changing circumstances.



The institutional design should include structural and economic components to align the incentives and actions of the regulatory authorities with the dynamic nature of markets.



As markets' are reaching maturity, they have to be deregulated in favor of flexibility and investment attraction. Respectively, wherever required, the regulation should be extended to provide security and trust for all stakeholders to the digital ecosystem.



We, regulators, strive to make the upgraded networks available to all, at affordable prices, and to ensure quality broadband access, always and everywhere, regardless of technology, network operator, service provider and geographical area.



We monitor the electronic communications market so that the prices and the terms of services use are made transparent to the consumer, without illicit charges or unfair marketing and advertising practices adopted by network operators and service providers.



Our vision comprises the adoption of a human-friendly technology, that will become a useful tool for the citizen, enabling him to grow, to get educated, to work creatively and to progress.



Thank you for your attention.



You can find the slides of the Presentation here

8th International Conference site

See here the video of the Presentation