Why Regulation of the Satellite Industry is crucial:
- Universal Connectivity! This is no longer an academic subject, thanks to the availability today of VSAT systems that can cost-effectively provide telecommunications in the most challenging applications. These include no less than rural telecommunications, disaster recovery, telemedicine, distance learning, corporate networks, and much more.
- National Disconnects: In many countries where such solutions are most needed, outdated regulations stand in the way of the economic progress that is faciliated through the use of VSAT systems and services. These hurdles include:
- High licensing fees
- Cumbersome red tape
- Cost-prohibitive customs duties
- Slow response to license applications
Regulators around the world already are taking these factors into account and are implementing new policies that facilitate the use of VSAT systems and services. Evidence of this trend can be seen in numerous global and regional initiatives being signed by scores of nations, including:
1. Tampere Convention:
The international community is moving to offer the VSAT industry and other telecoms concerns an international legal instrument that will empower nations requesting external assistance following a natural or man-made disaster to waive normal licensing and importation requirements.
Called the "Tampere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations", the treaty is significant because:
- It provides for the reduction or removal of regulatory barriers that currently impede the use of VSAT resources for disaster recovery.
- For the first time, privileges and immunities will be accorded to private VSAT companies providing disaster assistance by exempting them from taxation and duties, and granting them immunity from arrest and detention. (Previously, such immunities were accorded only to the UN and comparable multi-lateral agencies.)
- Before the arrival of telecoms assistance in a disaster zone, a requesting nation will be obliged to set down in writing the fees it expects to receive or have reimbursed, if any. This applies to cases where non-disaster-relief communications are provided in tandem with disaster-recovery services, such as after the Kobe earthquake. To avoid excessive charges, the fees will be based on an agreed model of payment and reimbursement, as well as other factors such as the nature of the disaster, natural hazards, etc.
Thus, the Global VSAT Forum would encourage all governments to sign the Tampere Convention and embrace it fully in the context of facilitating communications service provision via VSAT-based systems.
2. Mutual Recognition Agreement for Terminal Certifications:
A trend is underway throughout the world, whereby regional groups of countries are moving to boost foreign trade in telecoms terminal equipment by streamlining terminal certification and test procedures through the signing of regional Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).
For example, streamlined test procedures for VSATs and other telecoms systems are poised to boost Pacific-Rim trade by hundreds of millions of dollars, following meetings held recently by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.
The test procedures, which could be implemented as early as July 1999, represent the first phase of an MRA for conformity assessment of satellite communications earth stations and other telecoms terminals included in an agreement first signed by ministers of the 18 APEC nations last summer.
Phase two of the MRA calls for the APEC nations to accelerate equipment certification procedures and reduce or eliminate redundant testing of VSATs and other telecoms equipment. The gains eventually are expected to affect more than $40 billion in trade among all sectors of the telecoms industry.
The GVF supports similar initiatives in other regions: The Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL) is also moving toward completion of telecom MRA text, which is expected in late 1999. And Europe is moving toward implementation of its own version, called the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (RTTE).
In the absence of an MRA, certification and testing procedures of VSATs and other telecoms equipment must often be repeated on a country-by-country basis, because the region’s nations and, indeed, economies around the world each impose their own authorization schemes. This redundancy ultimately forces end users to pay higher prices and wait longer for delivery of solutions.
Thus, the Global VSAT Forum recommends that all governments pursue such programs.
3. Other General Considerations:
The Global VSAT Forum has also observed progressive trends in policy formation in various nations around the world, which we would suggest that all governments consider. These include but are not limited to the following:
Elimination of Monopolies: In every market where a monopoly exists, so too are found sub-standard services offered at above-market prices - assuming any service is available at all. The Global VSAT Forum recommends that monopoly privileges be eliminated, because the people and business community of any nation are entitled to high-quality, low-cost communications as a means of improving standards of living.
Licensing exclusions: VSATs are an ideal means of rapidly providing cost-effective network solutions for a wide range of applications, including distance learning, telemedicine, rural telecoms, banking, retailing, stock exchanges, disaster recovery, and other government, commercial and consumer-oriented solutions.
In recognition of this, nations have begun moving toward policies that do not require VSATs to undergo a licensing process of any kind, provided they operate within certain pre-defined parameters. The Global VSAT Forum would encourage all governments to investigate this option, and we would be pleased to offer any information that may be required by the administration.
More Yields Less: In general, the Global VSAT Forum has observed in every region of the world that the more regulation, fees, and other requirements that are imposed on would-be providers of VSAT systems and services, the less communications will be provided in the country.
As a general rule, eliminate fees and paperwork wherever and whenever possible; numerous countries around the world are implementing new policies which embrace this new approach to facilitating the provision of telecommunications to a variety of end users. If more information is sought related to this or any other policy trends, please do not hesitate to contact the Global VSAT Forum for further input.
Regional Harmonization: Individual nations are increasingly interested in formulating policies within the context of policies being considered or used by other nations located within or proximate to their own region. This can most clearly be seen in the European Community, where harmonization of policies has been mandated and is even now being acted upon. (Manifestations of this also are evident in programs like the One Stop Shop VSAT Licensing policy being formulated by Europe’s CEPT.)
But it is also evident in other regions. Many African nations, for example, have no policy to accommodate VSAT system and service provision. So they are evaluating regional policy solutions that could be used to advance the entire region, as well as each individual nation. These may be adopted by PATU, SATCC, COMESA or other African organizations.