The role of regional regulatory organisations

As radio waves do not stop at national borders, regional collaboration and harmonisation is central to a funcitioning telecom industry. SPIDER takes a look what this work entails both in Europe and on the African continent.

Regional regulatory bodies aim to harmonise the telecommunications markets of the member countries and have been a part of the capacity building programme for ICT regulators in different ways. The African Regional Regulatory Organisations as a part of the SPIDER Support Team and BEREC indirectly as a source of documents.

BEREC is the regional telecommunications regulatory body of EU. Its goal is to harmonise telecommunications in the EU and it enables countries in the European Union to share experiences and competence. If countries rely only their own competence they would often have to do everything from scratch and BEREC would have a mammoth task of harmonising the results.

For example, if every country carried out their own evaluation of spectrum management, there would be 26 evaluations of Spectrum management to harmonise within the EU. The process that is set up now is as follows. For each of the 10 working groups and work streams that are commissioned to draft various documents by the EU, each country makes resource commitments. What this commitment means is quite loose. You can contribute either as a drafter or as a member.

Drafters work on the document, receive all the background communication, be present at meetings while members participate through updates and consultation rounds without participating in the process directly. BEREC will invite countries to contribute. Sometimes it is hard to get competence for a particular question. For other questions it is easier, as some countries are very interested in the final document and are therefore keen to send staff as “drafters”.

Here a balance must be maintained between the interests of different member states. When it came to roaming for example, PTS was a drafting partner, and the aim of Sweden to have no roaming within the EU was balanced against the perspective of Greece and Spain who would have preferred higher roaming costs, to increase the benefit from the tourism to their countries.

To have a lot of drafters can be difficult, as the more people you are the more opinions do you have to unite. The important part is to collaborate, share resources and balance the different goals of different countries. The European Union has an agreement about a single market which means that the conditions for movement and work should be the same in all of EU, this creates a certain structure and demands but also trade-offs and balancing acts. BEREC develops the guidelines and other documents that are stipulated by the European Electronic Communications Code, or just The Code. In the meetings there is always an EU commissioner to ensure that BEREC develops guidelines that follow the interpretation of the Code that the EU actually wants.

Regional Regulatory Organisations in Africa also aim at harmonisation of the telecom regulation in their respective regions but they are set up differently and work differently. CRASA has a broad mandate from SADEC to harmonise and can focus on the relevant and burning issues on the ground. The working groups at EACO also sometimes include operators, which would not be possible for BEREC.

Katja Sarajeva is programme manager at SPIDER, the coordinator of the ICT Regulation – Policy and Practice network and the author of this article