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8. Regional integration

 

This module summarises Chapter 8 which covers broadband access and regional integration. It addresses how broadband policy makers and regulators can benefit from closer regional co-ordination by sharing experiences, setting common principles or through harmonisation, if that is justified by economics of scale. Good practices to promote infrastructure deployment are also discussed, as well as competition and international connectivity among countries in the region and farther afield. Finally, the discussion turns to the question of how broadband access policy makers can advance regional integration, by responding to the challenges and opportunities of the developments in international mobile roaming and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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Main policy objectives
Tools for measurements and analysis
The LAC region
Leading good practices

 

Main policy objectives

Policy makers and regulatory authorities should cultivate the sharing of good practices and approaches and, when possible, their experience with demonstrable outcomes. Co-ordination among LAC countries will ultimately lead to better policies and encourage economies of scale, investment and competition in the region.

In general, and in the context of regional integration, broadband policy should aim to lower barriers and increase competition for the use of cross-border broadband services, optimise cross-border data flows and develop a regional market. Common public policies should attract investment to the region, where economies of scale are in place, and improve cross-border trade.

As for international connectivity, policy goals should focus on encouraging (and funding when needed) deployment of regional terrestrial backbones, submarine cables and international gateways. Effective regional co-operation is essential for co-ordinating the effort to build international connectivity infrastructure. Countries should also aim to develop a competitive marketplace for Internet traffic exchange to meet domestic demand for Internet bandwidth and self-sufficiency in a cost-efficient way. IXPs are the key tool in this respect. Above all, competition should be encouraged and dominance issues addressed so all players can benefit from international connectivity (Chapter 4 on competition and infrastructure bottlenecks addresses issues related to dominance and regulatory measures).

Regional integration implies that a flow of people, goods and data should be efficiently facilitated across borders. In a data-dependent world, users travelling abroad and connected machines operating across borders to facilitate trade and travel should not be burdened with uncompetitive international roaming prices. Policies governing international roaming should focus on good practices, as discussed below: promoting transparency for customers and awareness of substitutes for international roaming; protecting them from inadvertently high bills (“bill shock”) and inadvertent roaming; developing trans-national roaming offers; ensuring a competitive wholesale market, and promoting competition at the retail level.

Finally, any regional integration policy should adopt a long-term perspective, preparing for future demand and emerging cross-border services. Online services tend to defy national boundaries. Given the increasing number of connected devices, including for vehicles, policy makers should anticipate future challenges and the opportunities for regional agreements as well as for national frameworks.

Preparing for the future requires, for example, evaluating policy frameworks to ensure the adoption and deployment of IoT applications and services. Adequate resources (such as spectrum and number identifiers) and solutions that are flexible and that avoid lock-in are essential. The goal is to make sure IoT development is addressed in both national and regional public policy.

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Tools for measurement and analysis

In the context of ICT/broadband policy co-operation and co-ordination, assessments for progress in regional co-operation could include:

  • Qualitative and quantitative assessment of the participation in international/regional forums and organisations, as well as the main issues discussed and policy decisions taken.

  • Periodical assessment of resources (in terms of budget and human resources) and benefits obtained (even if they cannot be quantified) to guide international activity, as well as to set priorities in the allocation of resources for different lines of work.

For international connectivity infrastructure and services, measurement could include:

  • Maintaining an inventory of existing infrastructure providing connectivity to other countries (such as submarine cables, international trunks and international gateways) and publishing aggregated data that protects the confidentiality of sensitive information from operators.

  • Monitoring traffic and prices through regular information requests to operators, complementing this with normalised benchmarking with other similar and/or leading countries. Maintaining regular contacts with operators is also useful for identifying existing bottlenecks or future needs.

Measurement of IXPs should include the following tools:

  • Data collection and benchmarking on domestic Internet bandwidth at IXPs over time relative to other countries, within the region and internationally.

  • Measurements especially useful for supporting policy guidance are: total available capacity at the IXP, total number of connected autonomous system numbers (ASNs)3 and the number of content delivery networks (CDNs)4 hosted at the IXP.

  • Monitoring of membership fees and the conditions for participating in IXPs, to ensure a competitive and neutral interconnection platform.

  • Establishing measurement points at service providers to analyse the performance of the IXPs.

Establishing metrics to trace the progress of IPv6 adoption in the Internet is not a simple task. Over the years, many approaches and associated measurements have been used, reflecting the fact that the Internet is not a single integrated system but a collation of component subsystems, so that IPv6 measurements can be taken in any particular subsystem. The Toolkit provides several examples of possible measurement approaches for IPv6 adoption.

Policy making and regulatory action in the area of international roaming should also be based on evidence, such as by monitoring the evolution of prices, volumes and revenues for each roaming service, and – when available – data on real costs for international roaming services. To collect these data from operators, communications regulatory authorities must have the corresponding powers specified in the regulatory framework. Benchmarking with other countries can also identify trends and specific characteristics of national markets.

Finally, monitoring the development of IoTcan be done by:

  • Using proxy measures, such as the number of SIM cards dedicated to IoT services (i.e. M2M). Despite the limitations of this approach, it provides an idea of the use of IoT and makes subscriptions aimed at traditional mobile services more relevant for the intended use (which is not possible if consumer and M2M subscriptions are bundled).

  • Keeping track of market developments and spectrum use in licensed and unlicensed frequency bands, to ensure sufficient spectrum is available to meet the increasing demand for M2M/IoT services.

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Overview of the situation in the LAC region

Regional co-ordination among policy makers and regulatory authorities

The American and Caribbean region has one of the very earliest regional intergovernmental organisations in the world, the Organization of American States (OAS), which was established in 1890. The linguistic, cultural and political commonalities of Latin America and the Caribbean have inspired a significant number of attempts to increase economic, commercial and political co-operation in the region. However, the complexity and heterogeneity of the LAC region has also prompted different sub-regional co-operation and integration initiatives, with varying degrees of success. In the area of broadband policy, the multiplicity of memberships and the number of regional bodies has equally had mixed results in advancing regional integration and a common digital agenda.

In addition to international organisations with members around the world, including those with regional programmes or presence, the LAC region has several regional co-ordination bodies with some mandate over issues related to the supply and demand for broadband. A summary of these regional bodies and resources, with more information on their work, can be found in the resources section in this platform.

International connectivity

Despite significant improvements in the last few years, persistent gaps in LAC region’s infrastructure deployment remain, posing a major challenge to inclusive growth and the provision of public services. In communications infrastructure, the situation is no different. For historic reasons, much of the data traffic between LAC and the rest of the world, or even among LAC countries themselves, went through the United States (IDB, 2011a), notably Florida and the West Coast (Jordán, Galperin and Peres, 2013). Around 85% to 90% of communications with Europe, for example, still rely on undersea cables going to the United States, since the existing cable between Latin America and Europe is outdated and is only used for voice transmission. A public-private partnership initiative to deploy a new submarine fibre-optic cable between Europe and South America, linking Lisbon (Portugal) with Fortaleza (Brazil), is under discussion (EC, 2015).

The region has recently seen improvements, through efforts to deploy regional submarine cables, terrestrial connections and IXPs. However, the lack of competition, redundancy, highcapacity connections and shorter communication paths to and, more important, among LAC countries still constitutes a major infrastructure bottleneck for regional integration of the LAC region’s digital economy.

International roaming

Although progress has been made in recent years, and several providers have introduced initiatives to reduce retail roaming prices, international roaming prices in the LAC region, as in many other locations, remain high and unrelated to costs. This is an area of concern for regulators in the region, prompting several studies in the region with the support of the IDB. A few LAC countries are moving to implement bilateral agreements to reduce prices for international roaming services, such as Colombia with Peru and Ecuador, and Chile, Argentina and Peru.15 An agreement in the context of the Pacific Alliance was reached between regulators in Mexico, Colombia and Chile to share information and conduct studies of roaming services in the region (REGULATEL, 2016). It is worth nothing that currently no LAC country applies price regulations for international roaming services.

IoT

The use of devices, applications and services under the terms “IoT” and “M2M communication” is expected to grow significantly around the world, as well as in the LAC region. The total number of connected devices in use globally is projected to grow from 10 billion in 2013 to anywhere from 19 billion to 40 billion by 2019 (Castillo and Thierer, 2015). LAC countries see IoT as an emerging opportunity. Policy makers are increasingly interested in promoting and monitoring its growth, removing barriers to it and considering both consumer protection and taxation and the potential privacy and security risks.
Colombia’s national regulatory agency is currently analysing technological and legal ramifications of the growth of its digital ecosystem, so that it can implement and recommend policies to increase use of IoT. Colombia has already studied mobile numbering policies, without adopting any specific measures. Brazil recently passed legislation to stimulate IoT deployment.

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Good practices

Some of the good practices covered in Chapter 8 relate to:

  • Regional co-ordination among policy makers and regulatory authorities
  • International connectivity
  • International mobile roaming
  • IoT

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BROWSE TOPICS OF THE TOOLKIT

Introduction •  Regulatory frameworks and digital strategies •  Spectrum policy •  Competition and infrastructure bottlenecks •  Extending broadband access and services •  Affordability, government charges and digital inclusion •  Convergence •  Regional integration •  Skills and Jobs •  Business uptake, entrepreneurship and digital content •  E-health •  Digital government •  Consumer protection and e-commerce •  Digital security management •  Privacy protection
 

 

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