Greater Europe Advances Regulatory Reform

By | February 23, 2004 | Feature

VILNIUS, Lithuania – Fundamental political changes underway in Europe are favorably impacting the satellite industry’s ability to provide competitive systems and services. Final preparations to add 10 Eastern and Central European nations to the European Union (EU) are progressing rapidly, amid ongoing efforts to implement corresponding and highly progressive satellite regulatory policies in the coming months.

But the opportunities posed by the eastward expansion of light-touch EU satellite regulations extend beyond the new EU border. Non-EU European nations increasingly are developing and implementing new satellite regulatory approaches via an inter-governmental group of 46 European administrations called the Conference Europeene Post et Telecommunications (CEPT).

Improved regulatory approaches have profound implications for the satellite industry. The result is that it is more feasible to roll out competitive cross-border satellite networks across greater Europe than in any other comparably sized world region.

The automotive industry provides a good case in point. Peugeot was able to deploy a 4,200-site private network that provides the organization with point-to-multipoint services to and from nearly 20 European countries. By no coincidence, Peugeot’s competitors – including such companies as BMW [BMWCF] and General Motors [GM] – have deployed major satellite-based, multi-national networks in the region. Likewise, the retail, utilities and financial-services sectors have begun to take advantage of regional satellite communications solutions in the improving regulatory operating environment.

Without doubt, Europe’s satellite regulatory-reform trend holds the potential for even greater market opportunities, but the pace of such improvements is affected by the strength of the satellite industry’s dialogue with European governments. The strength of that dialogue now has been taken to a new level.

Words Become Action

The international satellite industry and European regulatory community initiated a successful collaboration that aims to facilitate rapid implementation of regulatory and policy reforms, while promoting expanded access to cost-effective telecommunications throughout the region.

The joint programme occurred during a Satellite Regulatory Seminar held here Feb. 3 by the international satellite industry for nearly 70 regulatory and ministry officials representing most of the nations of Europe. The seminar was held in coordination with the European Commission (EC) and CEPT by the private sector, which was represented by three non-profit trade associations: The European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA), the GVF and the Satellite Action Plan-Regulatory Working Group (SAP-REG).

“European administrations increasingly recognize that satellite communications are ideally suited for a wide range of applications that provide essential regional connectivity and, as a result, accelerate the pace of economic development in Europe,” said a joint statement presented by the three associations. “This seminar highlighted the implementation in Europe of regulatory and policy principles that have successfully facilitated access to mobile and fixed satellite communications.”

As an indication of how many tangible gains have been made, an update provided during the seminar addressed specific types of satellite regulatory reforms that have been implemented, the nations that have implemented them and the corresponding time frames.

For example, a report from the European Radiocommunication Office (ERO) showed implementation of satellite reforms continued apace during the last six months of 2003. The 46 CEPT member states periodically adopt regional policy principles relating to various telecom systems and services that include those offered by satellite. Once adopted at the regional level, decisions gradually are implemented nationally.

According to the ERO report, of the 41 satellite-related decisions:

  • One or more of the 46 European governments has implemented 26 decisions since August 2003;
  • A significant level of implementation has occurred across the three major categories of reforms, including licensing exemptions, spectrum management and free circulation;
  • As of December 2003, 27 governments had implemented 10 or more satellite-related decisions; 21 had implemented 30 or more; and five had implemented 40 or more.

In addition to CEPT reforms, EC directives are soon to be implemented by the existing and soon-to-be EU members, respectively. All of the CEPT and EC reforms are being coordinated so that there will be harmonization across greater Europe. Many of the latest satellite regulatory reform trends were discussed during the seminar, including licensing reform, technology neutrality, certifications, and new development and international coordination.

As for licensing reform, regulators have begun implementing streamlined approaches for mobile and fixed satellite services and systems. Indeed, in many cases, systems and services now are exempted altogether from licensing requirements because they do not pose a significant risk of interference.

During a regulatory roundtable at the seminar, several delegates shared their experience with the new approaches, which they described as being “highly effective.” The regulators included Peter Knudsen, senior official with the National IT & Telecommunications Agency of Denmark; Ferenc Horvath, head of radiocommunications in Hungary’s Ministry of Information & Communications; and Kristin Due Hauge, senior adviser/networks department, satellite and public mobile services, with Norway’s Post and Telecommunications Authority.

Similarly, an in-depth analysis of the practical application of General Authorisations – the EC’s “light-touch” alternative to traditional licensing practises – was provided by Cristiana Spontoni, a Brussels-based attorney with the law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.

Technology Neutrality

Another recurring theme in the seminar roundtable discussions was how successful the European regulators’ experience has been – both in Eastern and Western Europe – with approaches deemed to be “technology neutral.” Regulators who had implemented such technology-neutral approaches noted satellite communications are simply one of a number of important telecom tools that can and should be regulated without unnecessarily designing technology-specific rules.

A new EC directive addresses certifications. The directive effectively ends the practice of governments approving certain satellite and other telecom terminal equipment “types.” The EC official who addressed the subject was Mark Bogers, supervisor of the Electrical, Electronics and Telecom Sectors and Manager of the Radio & Telecom Terminal Equipment (RTTE) Directive. Bogers, who also is deputy of EMC directives, noted the R&TTE Directive had been proved by various EU-member administrations to be a successful alternative.

While work has been done to optimize satellite regulation in Europe, new areas continue to emerge that require improved approaches. John Larsen, chairman of the CEPT’s PT5 Group on Satellite Communications, gave a comprehensive overview of how and why new regulatory areas are being developed for mobile and fixed satellite communications. In addition, it was noted that, as new approaches are developed, coordination is of increasing importance, both within Europe and with the rest of the world.

The final roundtable addressed regulatory approaches to enhance the successful deployment of mobile and fixed satellite communications solutions in Europe. Case studies showed how satellite broadband and narrowband services aid a wide range of end users in the region. A panel discussion featured representatives of the three associations: Holger Ischebeck, an ESOA representative and Eutelsat’s business development manager; David Hartshorn, secretary general, Global VSAT Forum; and Jean-Claude Domien, SAP-REG representative and director of regulatory affairs at EADS Astrium.

Increased co-ordination between the public- and private-sectors is vital as the communications community seeks to expand access to cost-effective services, the experts said.

As a final point, the effect of satellite regulatory reform does not stop at the borders of greater Europe. Throughout the international coordination process, Europe’s new regulatory approaches are evaluated for potential application by other regulators around the world. That process is facilitated by public- and private-sector collaboration. To that end, these types of initiatives will be advanced at two major events this year.

The Global VSAT Forum will hold a Regulatory Working Group meeting March 2 in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with its International Satellite Industry Summit. The venue will be Intelsat headquarters. And, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is holding a rapporteur’s meeting at the ITU offices March 25-26 in Geneva. The topic is Question 17/1: Satellite regulation in developing countries.

David Hartshorn is secretary general of the GVF, a non-profit, independent organisation that serves as the unified voice of the international satellite communications industry worldwide. It consists of 160 member companies from more than 70 countries and from every sector of the industry. He can be contacted by e-mail, david.hartshorn@gvf.org, or phone, +44 1727 884 739.

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