Evolving Telecom Regulations in SIDS

July, 2019


Historically, utility and service sectors have changed hands gradually from being Government ownership to public and subsequently private ownership. While the timing and the choice of sectors for liberalization varied, the underlying principles and approaches followed a common template globally. One such development was the creation of an effective sector regulator to promote the orderly growth of the industry.
The analysis of regulatory trends and tariff in this paper suggests that the SIDS need to accelerate the updating of their respective ICT regulatory frameworks to reach global best practice standards. Today, the ICT sector is deregulated and liberalized across the world. The stakeholders in the ICT sector include the Service providers, the Government, and the consumers. While the Government is primarily responsible for policy formulation and implementation, the broad responsibilities of the regulator include the orderly development of the sector, protection of consumer interests and protecting the interests of the government especially in the area of national security. The regulators generally work on certain basic principles such as – ensuring level playing field and transparency in operations, promoting market competition and moving towards regulatory forbearance. The regulatory role encompasses the economic, technological, social and consumer protection facets.
The rate of technological change is probably the highest in the ICT Sector, as compared to other liberalized sectors. Given these rapid technological advancements, the biggest challenge for the ICT Sector Regulator(s) is to keep themselves updated. The Regulatory framework should facilitate fast adoption of the technological developments, and at the same time monitor and regulate the sector effectively. While the ICT Sector regulators in developed and emerging countries have made strides in this direction, the regulatory framework in smaller countries is getting modernized at a slower pace. The pace of regulatory updating is even slower in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Given that SIDS face some inherent disadvantages such as small population size and geographical isolation, among others, their regulatory frameworks need to be responsive to these unique characteristics. Many a time this is taken as a ploy to maintain the status quo by the dominant operators. A robust and customized regulatory framework, aligned to best practices would take the islands a long way in service availability, affordability, quality, and technological advancement.
In this paper, we present our research findings regarding the ICT Regulatory framework in about 30 Small Island Developing States (SIDS). For this research, we have chosen the key regulatory areas such as licensing, spectrum management, tariff, number portability, and market competition.