InterComms talks to Susan Schorr, Regulatory Officer ITU/BDT Regulatory Reform Unit, about the background
to the ITU's ' Licensing in an Era of Convergence' recent Trends in Telecommunication Report
Susan Carroll Schorr joined the Telecommunication
Development Bureau (BDT) of International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) in March 2000 as a
regulatory officer in the BDT Regulatory Reform Unit.
She frequently lectures and provides training on key
regulatory issues in the information and
communication technology sector. Ms. Schorr is the
architect of the Global Regulators' Exchange (G-REX),
an online forum and hotline for regulators and policy
makers. She has authored and edited a series of BDT
case studies on effective regulation, interconnection
dispute resolution, licensing, and convergence
regulation in Latin America as well as case studies
providing feedback to regulators from investors,
consumers and the private sector. She is a regular
contributor to the annual ITU publication, Trends in
Telecommunication Reform, which has addressed key
regulatory issues such as Interconnection Regulation,
Effective Regulation, Promoting Universal Access To
ICTs and Licensing in an Era of Convergence. She
organized the first global meeting for regulators
hosted by the ITU/BDT, the Development Symposium
for Regulators held in Geneva in November 2000, and
has, along with her colleagues in the RRU, continued
to organize the ITU Global Symposium for Regulators
on an annual basis.
Prior to joining BDT, Ms. Schorr practiced
antitrust law as an associate in the Washington, D.C.
law firm of Howrey & Simon, LLP (now Howrey Simon
Arnold & White LLP). She graduated from the
Georgetown University Law Center in 1987 cum laude
and is a member of the California and D.C. bars. Ms.
Schorr has also worked as a telecommunications
Q: Why was the focus of the recent Trends in
Telecommunication Report on 'Licensing in an Era
of Convergence'? Was this in direct response to a
particular request or more of a pre-emptive topdown
strategy decision by the ITU?
A: The topic was recommended by the participants
in the 2003 Global Symposium for Regulators.
Each year, ITU seeks the input of the world's
regulators in the GSR to identify the areas of study
for the Regulatory Reform Unit for the next year.
Q: What is your feeling about the impact on
market and regulators?
A: It is early days for this report and too early for
the Global Symposium for Regulators to have an
impact on the market. However, I don't think it is
too early to say that they will ultimately have an
impact on regulators. I think that the report and
message we at the ITU are trying to convey was
very well received during the event. Regulators
around the world now realise that the time has
come to move forward. Most of them have
succeeded in the initial stages of sector reform.
This was to open their mobile markets to
competition and they have seen great success in
doing that. If you look at the numbers of mobile
subscribers globally you will see that the majority
of the World's users are in developing countries
and the numbers just keep on growing. This has
been achieved by their embracing sector reform
but what they need to do now is move to the next
step so that they can see the same sort of gains in
terms of more advanced communications services
and Information and Communication Technologies
and in particular the internet. I think that if they
continue to maintain either technology specific or
service specific market entry vehicles it will be
difficult for them to see the growth in ICT and
Internet they are hoping for. Around the world,
policy makers and regulators are now conducting
public consultations on topics such as Voice over
Internet Protocol and further market
liberalisations. I attended a conference in
Botswana in January, which was just such a public
consultation on about what steps to take to further
liberalize their telecommunications market. At the
event delegates commented that there had also
been similar events in Tanzania and South Africa
which had recently addressed the same issue.
Q: You spoke at the recent ITU symposium on a
global approach to eliminating SPAM. Perhaps
you could talk about this as a case study to show
how international regulators co-operation could
A: Possible areas of co-operation that have been
identified include sharing best practices on antispam
legislation, enforcement, building consumer
awareness and technical solutions to spam.
The Australian Communications Authority
(ACA) has been very active in trying to mobilise a
global effort on this topic. We at the ITU have been
trying to be supportive of that work through
organising virtual conferences on spam. And ITU
organized the WSIS Thematic Meeting on
Countering Spam in July 2004 trying to generate
interest in this and we will also be working on that
again later this year.
I know that Australia and Korea have entered
in to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and
they are inviting other interested parties to join
that MoU for further co-operation. The ACA
website has a lot of information on its website.
Q: Can you outline one of the new trends
identified: unified licenses?
A: A growing number of countries have tried to
simplify the licensing process to accommodate
and reflect convergence, to facilitate market entry
and to promote greater transparency and
consistency. Increasingly countries are developing
both technology-neutral and service-neutral
approaches to licensing, as well as moving to
reducing licensing requirements in favor of general
authorizations, registrations or mere notifications.
Recognizing that even generic licensing
classifications can hinder efficient technology use
and service provision, a few countries have made
efforts to do away with all licensing distinctions,
creating in their place a "unified licence" category
with minimal licensing requirements. In some
cases, previously licensed services are subject to
no licensing requirements at all.
Q: Can you point to an example?
A: India has already started with its unified access
licence. Until relatively recently the Indian market
was divided between mobile operators who use
GSM technology and licenses for what they called
Wireless Local Loop Mobility, which used CDMA
technology. This was supposed to be wireless fixed
line access. What they actually did was make the
operators used handsets that were much like fixed
line handsets - big and bulky but nonetheless
wireless handsets. What they found was that
people were actually moving them around on
motor scooters and cars and effectively using
them as oversized cell phones. Eventually several
of the operators began offering competitive mobile
services and their numbers began to grow. This
was despite the fact that the regulation meant they
weren't supposed to be doing this. However, there
was no reason technologically that the operators
couldn't offer mobile services. India then moved to
remove that regulatory barrier so now CDMA
operators and GSM operators can compete on a
level playing field. As a consequence, both are now
seeing their mobile subscribers rise. India has
called that the unified access license. They have
now realised that the technology has superseded
the regulatory barriers and they are moving to
remove even more regulatory barriers. They are
planning on having a unified licence so that any
network operators can use any technology of their
choice to provide any kind of ICT service they
wish. This goes for telephony, Internet, broadcast,
VoIP- they are free to do as they wish in an effort
to really grow the number of subscribers.
Q: What is the rationale for licensing?
A: Licensing is used for a variety of reasons
including to control market structure, the number
and types of network operators or service
providers, the extent of competition, the pace of
infrastructure expansion, the affordability and
range of Telecommunication, Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) services available
to consumers and to allocate scare resources.
Licensing can be used to control market entry and
as a vehicle to impose a wide range of regulatory
obligations and ensure implementation of various
policy objectives. Increasingly, regulators and
policy makers realize, with technological
advancements and market evolution, that licensing
practices too must evolve to reflect current
conditions. Maintaining outdated and irrelevant
licensing classifications, for example, can act as a
barrier to market entry, hinder competition and
therefore present an obstacle to ICT development.
Q: What is best practice in licensing models?
A: Many of the newer approaches to licensing as
well as the move to de-licensing are explored in
the 2004 edition of Trends in Telecommunication
Reform: Licensing in an Era of Convergence.
These include the unified license approach being
implemented in India, the facilities-based and
service-based licensing approaches used in
Singapore and the technology and service-neutral
approach used in Malaysia in which servicespecific
classifications were replaced by four
generic classifications: network facility provider,
network service provider, application service
provider and content applications service provider.
That model has been adopted by Mauritius, and
Tanzania and Kenya are also examining this model.
That model clearly seems to have garnered some
interest by a variety of developing countries. The
Singapore model is more a straightforward division
between services based and infrastructure based
licensing. In addition, Japan has moved to a
registration and notification approach and the
European Union has moved to a system of general
authorizations. In other countries, e.g., the U.S.,
some services, such as Wi-Fi hotspots, are subject
to no licensing requirements at all. Some
approaches may be more open than others. Each
has its advantages. I think it is to early to say that
there is one model that will be adopted by the
majority of countries.
For more information:
Please contact: Toby Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit www.itu.int