Goodbye from Watching the Connectives: hello from The Digital Watcher

Rob Bratby

To all my readers, thank you and goodbye. This blog is now an ex-blog. Continue reading

Ofcom consults on revision of (half of) UK’s general authorisation conditions

As anticipated, Ofcom yesterday started a consultation on its plans to update the UK’s Conditions of General Entitlement i.e. the obligations placed on all telecoms operators in the UK that rely on the UK’s general authorisation. Continue reading

UK Government publishes Digital Economy Bill draft

The UK Government today published its first draft of the Digital Economy Bill. As expected, it contains provisions addressing (text taken from Government explanatory fact sheet): Continue reading

Europe consults on implementation of net neutrality

From 30 April 2016, Europe has been subject to net neutrality rules set out in the Connected Continent Regulation. However  those rules, set out in Articles 3 and 4 of the Regulation and reproduced below for easy reference, are framed at such a high level of abstraction as to be almost useless in assessing whether any particular practice is compliant or not. Continue reading

UK wayleave reform to create a £1bn windfall for telecoms operators

As discussed previously, perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation for the telecoms sector proposed in the recent Queen’s speech is reform of the Electronic Communications Code, which deals with the telecoms industry’s access to land in the UK. Continue reading

Finally! Bidding starts in UK 4G auction

After many twists and turns (see here for background), the UK auction of spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands started yesterday.

Ofcom announced that the bidders are:

  • Everything Everywhere Limited
  • HKT (UK) Company Limited (a subsidiary of PCCW Limited)
  • Hutchison 3G UK Limited
  • MLL Telecom Ltd
  • Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of BT Group plc)
  • Telefónica UK Limited
  • Vodafone Limited

The auction  rules mean that no more information will available until the conclusion of the auction – likely in a couple of weeks.

Singapore IDA contemplates reserving spectrum for new entrant as it consults on 4G auctions

In a consultation published earlier this week, Singapore’s Info-Communications Development Agency (or IDA) published a consultation on auctioning and reserving spectrum in Singapore for 4G (LTE or WiMAX) use in the in 1800 MHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.5GHz bands. (As an aside, the 2.5GHz band from 2500 MHz to 2690MHz is also described as the 2.6 GHz range by some European regulators).

Although there is no definitive commitment to set aside spectrum for a new entrant, the IDA consultation indicates that it is prepared to reserve 2 x 20MHz in the 2.5 Ghz band for new entrants only, coupled with a relaxation of the national coverage timetable to the extent there is genuine interest from a credible new entrant. Any interested parties should respond to the consultation indicating their interest.

Key points of the consultation proposals are:

Spectrum to be auctioned / reserved

  • 2 x 70MHz paired spectrum in 1800Mhz band;
  • 30 MHz in the 2.3 GHz band; and
  • 2 x 60 MHz paired spectrum and 30MHz unpaired spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band.

In addition, spectrum will also be reserved for future allocation as follows:

  • 2 x 5 MHz paired spectrum in 1800Mhz band;
  • 20 MHz in the 2.3 GHz band; and
  • 2 x 10 MHz paired spectrum and 20MHz unpaired spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band.

The proposal is that the spectrum would be auctioned/ reserved in 10MHz blocks.

Licence conditions

The consultation proposes that licensees will be required to offer commercially available 4G services to retail end-users in Singapore. This obligation is a national obligation, although as Singapore is effectively a city-state this is rather less onerous than in other jurisdictions, although interestingly licensees holding more than 30MHz in the 2.3 or 2.5 GHz bands will be required to provide coverage in underground MRT stations / lines and road tunnels by 2018.

Auction format

The IDA is proposing to allocate spectrum by auction, using a “Clock-Plus” auction similar to those used in Sweden and India. Each of the bands will be a separate category with generic lots of 10 MHz.

In order to balance the conflicting requirements of giving operators as much spectrum as they would ideally like with the IDA’s need to have genuine competition to maximise long-term consumer welfare, the IDA is proposing an aggregate cap of 2 x 45 MHz paired spectrum (with no cap on unpaired spectrum).

The licences auctioned will run until 30 June 2030.

Next steps

Comments are due with the IDA by 8 May

Mobile broadband at heart of Europe’s recently adopted Radio Spectrum Policy Programme as WRC 12 concludes in Geneva

The wheels of European legislation have slowly turned, and last week Europe adopted a five-year radio spectrum policy programme, at Parliament’s second reading under the co-decision procedure. Readers will recall that last summer two key issues remained outstanding between the Council of Ministers and Parliament – the date by which the 800 MHz band should be cleared and the minimum amount of spectrum to be made available for mobile broadband.

In the usual European fashion, Parliament prevailed on one issue (at least 1200 MHz to be available for mobile broadband by 2015) and the Council on the other (800 MHz band to be cleared by 2013). Somewhat unusually, this horse-trading has resulted in a very good outcome with spectrum being made available early and in sufficient quantity to place Europe in a strong position globally in the race to enable mobile broadband. Of course, implementation is in the hands of Member States, so it remains to be seen how this will play out in practice.

Meanwhile, over in Geneva, the four yearly world radio conference of the ITU finished on Friday. The provisional final acts are available here, and whilst I’ve not yet had time to review in detail, mobile broadband appeared to do well there as well with press reports that additional spectrum in the 700 MHz band may also be made available.

Will reforms to Cambodia’s telecoms regulatory regime reduce investment risk?

I have been experiencing an interesting shift in the way that I advise clients on risk as part of my move from Europe to Asia.

Almost a week after the Indian Supreme Court revoked 122 mobile licences on the grounds that their award was “totally arbitrary and unconstitutional”, which led to share price drops for some foreign investors, my eye was caught today by this story in the Phnomh Penh Post, that the government would create a telecoms regulator independent of government and that the regulator would provide increased transparency and rules for the telecoms sector.

Were I blogging about changes to Ofcom rules, I would be able to analyse the detailed impact of the changes on the way companies operate in the market and try to make some informed guess about their likely impact. However, when looking at Cambodia, any assessment about the impact of the rules also has to take into account whether the rules will be followed and /or enforced. In other words, the assessment of the regulatory regime needs to take account of country specific general investment risks correlated with the strength of the rule of law and the levels of corruption within that jurisdiction.

Whilst that assessment is by no means a purely legal assessment it is a relevant question to ask whether the Cambodian government has made any international commitments, which might assist. As I explain here, telecoms has been the subject to WTO treaty negotiations, and the separation of the regulator from government forms part 5 of the telecoms reference paper agreed by US and Europe in 1996, and which is widely used as the basis for WTO offers by countries.

In the case of Cambodia, they have signed up to the telecoms reference paper, so in theory should already have an independent regulator as well as the other elements of the regulatory framework contained in the reference paper. Of course, in reality they don’t, which is why I will be following the implementation process with interest. As the WTO commitments do have teeth, it will be particularly interesting to see if any of the market participants directly or indirectly reference Cambodia’s international commitments as a benchmark during the upcoming reforms.

So, in best blogger fashion, I end by answering my own question: will reforms to Cambodia’s telecoms regulatory regime reduce investment risk? The short answer is that whilst there is every prospect that it will, the way that the process is carried out, and more significantly the extent to which it can actually be enforced will be the real test.

Ofcom introduce spectrum leasing

Last week Ofcom published its conclusions from its earlier consultation on simplifying spectrum trading by introducing spectrum leasing. The concept is best explained through a couple of pictures from the Ofcom statement:

Existing spectrum trading:

New spectrum leasing:

The pictures demonstrate how the new proposals will simplify the spectrum market in the UK. Leasing will initially be available only for auctioned and exclusive area defined assignments.