The implementation of unified and multi-service authorization regimes requires careful planning. Regulators must address a myriad of issues, including:
§ whether a unified or multi-service authorization regime is appropriate for the local ICT market;
§ whether to adopt a unified or a multi-service authorization regime;
§ the categories of authorizations in a multi-service regime;
§ the licensing procedures for issuing the new authorizations;
§ the terms and conditions attached to these authorizations; and
§ how to transition existing licensees to the new licensing regime.
Depending on the nature and scope of the authorizations, regulators and policy makers may have to grapple with the issue of which regulatory agency should administer the new forms of authorizations. Since many countries have traditionally distinguished between telecommunications (i.e., transmission-based) services and broadcasting, or content-based services, it is not uncommon to have different regulatory agencies administer telecommunications and broadcasting services. In these countries, the inclusion of broadcasting and content-based services within the scope of a unified or a multi-service authorization thus raises the question of which regulatory agency should administer the authorization.
In the UK, for example, the implementation of the EU Authorization Directive required the introduction of a unified authorization, namely the electronic communications authorization. Electronic communications authorizations encompass all forms of electronic networks and services, including broadcasting and content-based services. There were five existing regulatory agencies in the UK whose authority touched upon one or more of the services and networks that came within the scope of the electronic communications authorization. Coordinating the activities of these five agencies would have been difficult and inefficient. Accordingly, the UK created a new regulator, the Office of Communications or OFCOM, to regulate the electronic communications sector. OFCOM replaced and assumed the responsibilities of the five regulatory agencies that previously had jurisdiction over various electronic communications networks and services.
In addition to the above substantive issues, regulators must also carefully consider the procedural dimension of implementing a new unified or multi-service authorization regime. In order to promote transparency and confidence in the process, best practices suggest that regulators should consult with industry stakeholders prior to implementing the new authorization regime. Many regulators have adopted a consultation process involving several stages prior to finalizing the details of unified licensing regimes or multi-service authorization regimes. In Nigeria, the consultation process had three phases, for example. The consultation process in Hong Kong, China also moved through three phases. The Hong Kong, China process involved consultation papers issued by both the regulator and the Ministry responsible for the ICT sector. In Kenya, the consultation process has thus far progressed through two phases.
Regulators may also find it helpful to establish industry forums so that they can collaborate with industry members on developing appropriate terms and conditions for authorizations, especially in the case of the technical aspects of access and interconnection. Given the dynamism in the ICT sector, it is likely that technical standards will continue to evolve. Industry members are often better placed than regulators to know what standards are appropriate.