GSMA calls for radically new regulatory framework for digital age

Telecoms regulations are in danger of being unfit for purpose in the digital world, according to the GSMA, which says the pace of change has failed to match that in telecoms and the Internet.The mobile operators’ alliance has published a report called ‘A New Regulatory Framework for the Digital Ecosystem’, commissioned from NERA Economic Consulting. This calls for a “forward-looking, technology agnostic regulatory framework, driven by clear policy objectives around consumer protection, innovation, investment and competition.”

John Giusti, chief regulatory officer at the GSMA, said: “The telecoms regulations in place today are largely the same as those used to regulate the technologies and markets of the last century. There is no place for analog rules in today’s dynamic digital age, where consumers face an expanded array of competitive choice in a converged marketplace.”

In many cases, he believes, market change has made some regulations completely unnecessary, or at least in need of change. “The GSMA urges policymakers to review existing market structures, reform outdated regulation and ensure a level competitive playing field to protect consumers and enable innovation,” he added.

In particular, the report points to the rise of mobile broadband access and the internet services it enables, including voice and messaging options which compete with traditional MNO offerings. But although they are competitive with those services, they are not subject to the same rules in areas such as the use of customer data, creating an unfair competitive landscape for mobile carriers.

“This discriminatory regulation distorts competition, stifles innovation and hurts consumer welfare,” continued Giusti. “Today’s dynamic and competitive markets require more non-discriminatory and technology agnostic policies. Reforms are needed to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from innovation and investment, while being protected and regardless of the type of the company or technology providing the service.”

The GSMA outlines three main principles for modernizing regulatory frameworks:

  • Regulatory objectives can best be met by focusing on the services delivered to consumers, not the type of company or technology that delivers them.
  • Measurable, performance-based approaches should be favoured over prescriptive regulations, promoting market dynamism and driving consumer welfare.
  • Policymakers should take a fresh look at legacy rules and discard those that are no longer relevant, applying a consistent set of criteria throughout the ecosystem.

The full report is available at

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