ETNO Chair: 'Telecoms should unite on regulations'

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The telecommunications industry is not looking to constrict the open internet at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) later this year, as has been suggested by some, according to Luigi Gambardella, chairman of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO). Instead, he says, ETNO will seek the freedom to contract commercially when the international telecommunications regulations (ITRs) are debated in Dubai later this year.

Luigi Gambardella is also vice president of international institutional relations with Telecom Italia. He spoke to EurActiv’s Jeremy Fleming in Brussels.

Dubai is being represented by internet proponents as an attempt to hijack regulation of the internet - why so?

The ITRs were revised for the last time in 1988. Since then major developments have occurred on telecoms markets. It is therefore totally expected that it raises such a heated debate. The main challenge is to ensure that ITRs reflect the changes while keeping sufficient flexibility for innovation to continue to take place.

ETNO is certainly not asking for any change to the current model of the internet governance based on private-sector leadership and multistakeholder dialogue. On the contrary, ETNO insists that new business models should be based on free commercial agreements between parties. ETNO wants to avoid new regulatory measures that would prevent new business models from emerging or hampering differentiated offers, hence limiting consumer choice.

How much is it costing telecoms companies to act as the vehicle for the boom in internet traffic?

According to a recent report by AT Kearney, investments related to increased traffic would amount up of to €31 billion for the period 2010-14 in Europe.

How will this change going forward, with updates to broadband networks?

It has been estimated by the European Commission that achieving the digital agenda goals of deploying next generation access networks by 2020 and providing all Europeans with 30 Mb/s and 50% of households by 100 Mb/ s will require up to €300 billion. Although investment, especially by ETNO members, continues to increase, the declining revenue trend in the telecoms sector in the long term is putting the telecoms operators’ investment capacity at risk.

Are the telecommunications industries going to speak with one voice at Dubai?

ETNO is the only telecoms association which has submitted a proposal on this specific issue to the International Telecommunications Union. ETNO represents more than 40 companies across Europe and we hope that telcos from other regions of the world will join us and support our proposal, in recognition of the changing marketplace.

ETNO has called for freedom to make commercial agreements, but can you be a bit more specific about how you see the relationships between the internet users of phone networks panning out?

First of all, nobody would be cut off from the Internet as the best effort Internet would continue to exist and to evolve. ETNO members have reiterated at many occasions their commitment to an open Internet and to the importance for consumers to being able to access services and applications of their choice in a transparent way. As recognised by the European Commission, operators should not be prevented from developing differentiated offers based on customer needs, in addition to the best effort Internet. New business models based on differentiated offers would ultimately create more choice for consumers as they would have the possibility to opt for an offer tailored to their needs and usage. End to end quality delivery is supporting the open Internet as it would encourage the development of new innovative applications and services which require guaranteed quality of service delivery.

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