|Issue:||Latin America I 1999|
|Topic:||Expectations for the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission in 1999|
|Author:||William M. Moran|
|Title:||Acting Executive Secretary|
By opening its doors to the private sector, CITEL believes that this one action has positioned itself as a pre-eminent forum for telecommunications in the Americas. In particular, it aims to become the forum for the development of a MRA covering conformity assessment of telecommunications in the Americas. Here, Mr. Moran introduces the work plan of CITEL for 1999 and states that it is only through working with its members that CITEL can set a course to make the organisation responsive and meaningful.
The one action taken by the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) member countries that has turned the organisation into what it is today, was to open the doors to the private sector, allowing them to participate in CITEL activities in their own right. More than anything else, this one action has positioned CITEL as a pre-eminent forum for telecommunications in the Americas. Since its start in the early I 990s, the focus of the program of activities has changed and so has the composition of the participants. The fact that these changes have occurred faster than anticipated gives credit to the working relationship between the governments and the private sector. It has succeeded in bringing the benefits of a modern telecommunications infrastructure to all people as part of the process of providing one of the basic building blocks for economic growth in today’s world. The CITEL Assembly held in March 1998 established a set of objectives for the Commission that was much broader compared to what had previously been adopted. These objectives in conjunction with the additional mandate CITEL received from the Seaond Summit of the Americas, resulted in a series of new directions initiated during the last year. Inter-American MRA for Conformity Assessment of Telecoms Equipment CITEL aims to become the forum for the development of a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) covering conformity assessment of telecommunications in the Americas. Its primary function or intention, in addition to responding to the decision taken at the Summit of the Americas, is to facilitate trading in goods and services in the telecommunication sector according to the Guidelines adopted by the 1996 Meeting of Senior Telecommunications Officials on Telecommunications Equipment Certification Processes. The implementation of a MRA for telecommunications equipment, along with the utilisation of the CITEL Guidelines, are expected to promote rapid access for new telecommunications equipment suppliers into the Americas, while assuring continued compliance with national technical regulations. This would assist member countries in their efforts to upgrade national and regional telecommunications infrastructure and services. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade provides that WTO members “shall ensure, whenever possible, that results of conformity assessment procedures in other WTO members are accepted, even when those procedures differ from their own, provided they are satisfied that those procedures offer an assurance of conformity with applicable technical regulations or standards equivalent to their own procedures.” CITEL has established a target date of the end of 1999 for their completion of the MRA. In order to assist countries in this endeavour, the Permanent Consultative-I of CITEL has scheduled three meetings this year so that they can provide the members with a sufficient opportunity to examine, discuss and revise the draft MRA. The MRA covers, among other things, the purpose, definitions, scope, designating authorities, conformity assessment bodies, accreditation bodies, verification procedures, implementation procedures and the preservation of regulatory authorities in member countries. The most critical portion of the MRA is concerned with the designation and monitoring requirements for conformity assessment bodies. This is an important area because different countries may specify different designation procedures for testing laboratories and certification bodies. In some cases, importing countries have different designation procedures for conformity assessment bodies in the area of electrical safety. In the draft MRA, the designation and monitoring requirements are divided into three areas: · Common Requirements; · Designation of Testing Laboratories; · Designation of Certification Bodies. The outlook is positive, but much work remains to be accomplished before the end of the year. Working with Other Entities The CITEL members have also recognised the necessity to work more closely with other key international organisations operating throughout the Americas and have taken steps to promote better co-operation and co-ordination. The CITEL Executive Committee has taken the initiative and has proposed modifications to the CITEL Statute that will allow international organisations such as INTELSAT, INMARSAT and CANTO to become associate members of CITEL. This will allow them to participate in their own right instead of participating as observers as is the situation today. Likewise, CITEL has joined forces with the ITU Regional office and AHCIET to produce a book covering the topic of Universal service in the Americas with the intent to provide assistance to member countries in their endeavours to implement the concept nationally. Also, CITEL has initiated a program in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the Pan American Health Organisation to support the delivery of Education and Health services in the Latin American countries. Telemedicine is one of the major applications in the efforts to improve the quality of medical services delivered to rural communities. Telemedicine will enable experienced experts to assist doctors based in rural or remote sites. Pilot programs have been established and activities are already underway. The pilot program has the following objectives: · to extend the availability of medical help; · to improve the quality of medical help; · to achieve timely patient care; and, · to promote medical training. CITEL also took the initiative to open a dialogue with the Negotiating Group on Services that are working on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This year CITEL will be working closely with the FTAA negotiating group on the MRA for Conformity Assessment of Telecommunications Equipment, preparing a presentation to the Trade Negotiators on the views of the CITEL members on the likely impact that their negotiations are likely to have on the telecommunications sector in the Americas. Other Issues More emphasis is being placed on the Standards Co-ordination Activities to position the telecommunications community to support the Objectives established by the Heads of State at the Summit of the Americas for the economic integration of the countries of the Americas and to provide guidance and assistance to the member countries as they engage in the process of improving their telecommunication infrastructures. Special emphasis is being placed on the areas of Intelligent Networks, Telecommunication Network Management and Wireless Services. An issue that has been attracting much attention in CITEL is Electronic Commerce, which allows business to create low cost efficient channels and new business opportunities. To successfully establish this system there are various factors to consider. One would need a ‘proper’ formation, networks, equipment and technical expertise. CITEL is just getting this activity underway and it is anticipated that by the end of the year the working group will be in the position to provide assistance to member countries in this area. Towards the vision of global wireless access in the 21st century, International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT -2000) will provide wireless access to the global telecommunication infrastructure. CITEL is aiming to provide direction in order to assist in the convergence of essentially competing wireless access technologies through the development of key specifications of appropriate standards and an additional spectrum for third generation mobile systems in which a single inexpensive mobile terminal can truly provide communications anywhere and anytime. In the area of broadcasting, CITEL is concerned with technical delivery systems not programming content. CITEL’s Digital Audio Broadcasting, Digital Broadcast Satellite and advanced TV have been focused spectrum allocation and interest in standardisation but leaving plenty of room for technology and market-led innovation. Broadcasting is at the crossroads of the 21st Century. Rapid developments in technology will enable delivery of sound and television programs to the home with unprecedented quality. Sound broadcasting, it will be available at a lower cost to the broadcaster and customer. The regulatory environments at the time will affect the timing and extent of these changes, but the pressures resulting from the combination of available technology with consumer demand will eventually result in major rearrangements. In 1999, particular attention will be paid to the structural and regulatory reform of CITEL. As CITEL enters into its fourth year of creation, there is a need to review its activities, structure and mechanisms in order to ensure the delivery of a focused orientated outcome. The review process will be completed this year. Conclusions The member countries along with their counterparts in the private sector have set a course for CITEL that is planned to make the organisation responsive and meaningful to its members and ensure that it will work in an efficient manner.