A tipping point for regulation

Sector specific telecoms regulation evolved when the market was comparatively static and applications were comparatively homogenous. For around a century, telecoms equalled voice, and slow progress was made towards universality, typically under state ownership. Now, markets are in transition to broadband access, including fibre, and applications – including over the top (OTT) messaging applications – are proliferating, fostered by smart mobile devices and ‘apps marketplaces’.

In less developed regions a transition is also underway, but from no service or voice only to mobile broadband access. Globally, mobile access already dominates and its dominance is growing. Regulatory norms and principles including cost orientation, unbundling and the ladder of investment concept were developed in a comparatively static era. It was also an era in which services equalled switched voice and basic broadband, rather than an increasingly heterogeneous mix of connectivity and applications.

This article considers the implications of this more dynamic and heterogeneous market for regulation, policy and business strategy.