The telecoms future for the Channel Islands depends on the choices we make

By | 10th November 2016

At the risk of stating the obvious, the landscape for future telecoms in the islands is changing beyond recognition. As the telecoms regulator, CICRA is charged with setting the context for achieving a sound and healthy telecoms sector in the future.

The policy direction set by the States in both Jersey and Guernsey are, of course, key to guiding what developments the islands should steer towards and which should be avoided.

Use of portable devices already goes well beyond voice, web and messaging. The amount and type of spectrum capacity to come is well beyond anything seen previously. With it will come new services; what we now receive through fixed wire networks could be matched by what is available over the airwaves. The implications of that are profound.

The islands must be reasonably prepared, versatile and adaptable enough to take advantage of the developments if we are to avoid a defensive and reactive response to each change in isolation.

At a high level this means developing robust plans based on informed judgment and not indefinitely delayed by a need for certainty; where options are evaluated by weighing benefits against the costs of change rather than wait for costless options.

Separate network technologies (each supporting single or limited telecoms services) are collapsing into single networks covering the breadth of all our telecoms services. These services may, in essence, become one technology product with distinctions driven by the app we press not the technology, network or device we have. CICRA needs to take into account the implications for scale of investment and life cycles of products. How we do that will affect the prices consumers pay and the choices they have?

For CICRA, and the operators, some of the questions that need to be asked are: beyond download and upload speeds and latency what will the next level of demand be? What do technology developments mean for the type of competition that will thrive or wither in small island economies?

Is there an even greater need to sever conflicts in upstream control and retail provision by telecoms operators and is this area too important to rely on just regulation to address conflicts of incentive?

What is crucial is that all stakeholders communicate positively and often with each other. To support both this desire for communication and how we embrace these burgeoning technologies, CICRA has published a draft telecoms strategy on the website http://www.cicra.gg/_files/Draft Telecoms Regulatory Strategy.pdf and we welcome input from all.

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