One of the issues that regulators must address when transitioning to a general authorization regime or an open entry policy framework is the status of service providers and operators that already hold valid authorizations. This Practice Note describes how some countries have managed this issue.
One approach is to deem that all current licensees have submitted all documentation required under the new framework in respect of services and networks that they were previously authorized to provide. Thus, these licensees would automatically be issued a general authorization or, alternatively in the case of an open entry policy, would be deemed to have satisfied any notification requirement. If a licensee wished to provide a new service or to operate a network for which it had never received an authorization, however, the licensee would be required to adhere to the new general authorization requirements or the new open entry policy.
Estonia adopted this type of approach when it introduced its open entry policy pursuant to its Electronic Communications Act. Under the open entry policy, all authorizations that were issued before the Electronic Communications Act came into force became invalid. However, undertakings that held such authorizations were deemed to have submitted the notice of commencement of activities with respect to the communications services and geographical area specified in the authorization. Thus, such undertakings automatically met the requirements for providing electronic communications services and, accordingly, were subject to the rights and obligations imposed by the Electronic Communications Act.
A slightly different approach was adopted by Ireland when it transitioned to a general authorization regime in 2003. In this case, the new general authorization regime became effective on July 25, and all previously issued authorizations were invalid as of this date. However, service providers and network operators were not able to obtain general authorizations by July 25 to replace their previous authorizations.
The Irish regulator, ComReg, opted not to automatically issue general authorizations to all service providers and operators that held authorizations issued under the old regime. Instead, ComReg required all providers and operators to submit the necessary Notification Form to obtain a general authorization. However, service providers and operators that previously held valid authorizations were deemed to be authorized to provide services and networks in advance of filing the necessary documentation to obtain a general authorization. ComReg did require, however, that the necessary Notification Form be filed by August 31. Licensees authorized under the old regime thus enjoyed a “grace period” between July 25 and August 31, during which they were permitted to offer services and operate networks under a general authorization without having complied with the formal requirements for obtaining the general authorization.