|Issue:||Europe I 2007|
|Topic:||Regulating wireless convergence for Romania’s future|
|Author:||Dan Cristian Georgescu|
|Organisation:||National Regulatory Authority for Communications, ANRC, Romania|
Dan Cristian Georgescu is the President of Romania’s National Regulatory Authority for Communications, ANRC. Mr Georgescu served previously as the President of a telecommunications operators’ association. During his earlier service with the government, Mr Georgescu was responsible for fixed and mobile radio-communications services in government networks and supervised the implementation and maintenance of national radio-communications networks within the Special Telecommunications Service. Mr Georgescu was a Member of the Board, President of the Board and sole administrator of the National Radio Communications Company, the privatisation of which he coordinated. Mr Georgescu has served as Counsellor to five Romanian Ministers of Communications. He contributed to the elaboration of legislation, the process of privatisation and the issuing of licences for major national operators. Mr Georgescu was also a Member of the Board of the Romanian National Post Company. Mr Georgescu is a graduate of National College ‘Sf. Sava’, Bucharest, of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest, Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications, and the National Defence College of Romania.
In Romania fixed – mobile convergence, driven by IP-based network convergence, is growing in parallel with 3G mobile telephony. The proliferation of WLANs, wireless local area networks via WiFi hotspots and such – and the increasing availability of mobile handsets with unlicensed mobile access, UMA, will give users new options at lower cost than with mobile telephony. Romania is identifying the frequency bands for implementing UMA technologies. This will call for the harmonisation of Romanian legislation with that adopted by the European Union.
One of the most challenging tasks of a regulatory authority in the field of electronic communications is to look into the future and correctly assess the evolutionary trends within the ICT domain. The ICT industry of tomorrow may be very different from today’s industry, but even if a long-term prediction may seem a risky endeavour in such a highly dynamic field, it may also represent a way to help accelerate development. One of the obvious trends in the electronic communications sector is convergence. From a users’ viewpoint, we may speak about the convergence of the electronic communications, media and IT services. The basis for such a trend lies in the technological evolution of the networks correlated with the evolution of terminal equipment, and within this general concept of convergence, wireless convergence is essential. The broad concept of wireless convergence to provide ubiquitous mobile access includes mobility of both the user and the terminal equipment, the availability of value-added personalised services adapted to the user’s profile, widespread – near universal – coverage, and ease of accessing a full range of communications-based services: voice, data, messages, video, Internet, etc. Mobile-fixed convergence can be implemented by integrating the wireless access technologies into common, flexible platforms, able to sustain a large variety of services, including current and future applications, for access through a unified, converged terminal. International standardization bodies, electronic communications networks, services providers, equipment manufacturers, as well as many research groups throughout the world are all working towards achieving the goal of seamless, all inclusive convergence. The evolution of wireless networks and services in Romania is similar to the evolution seen in the other European countries. Our 2G mobile networks based upon GSM technology and dedicated to voice service have developed very rapidly. The 2G networks currently offer services to around 15 million users. The number of users and the current penetration rate of around 64 per cent is expected to rise – to significantly exceed the number of fixed telephony subscribers – and reach the European average. In parallel with the increase in demand for broadband services and the spread of IP technology, 2G networks have migrated towards 3G networks, as GPRS and EDGE services have been developed. The Romanian authorities have acknowledged the major importance of 3G technologies for promoting the Information Society and, accordingly, in September 2003 granted two licences for third generation mobile networks. The first two winners of the 3G licences, Vodafone Romania and Orange Romania, paid a spectrum release tariff of around US$35 million and have the obligation to cover around six million subscribers, namely ten major cities and the capital, Bucharest, no later than 2011. Currently, 350,000 Romanian subscribers benefit from the innovative, multimedia 3G services provided by the two largest operators in the market and one can expect that the 500,000 subscribers threshold will be exceeded by the end of 2006. Recently, in October 2006, two additional operators were granted licences to develop 3G networks – this is evidence that the regulator’s action in fostering dynamic competition in this new market, and favouring active investments and innovation, has given the expected results. The licensing fees and payment conditions have been set in a manner calculated not to impede the operators’ plans to develop freely their 3G networks and service offerings. In the future, the 3G/UMTS networks capabilities will probably increase along with the implementation of 3GPP, Third Generation Partnership Project, high-speed interfaces (HSPA and HSDPA). The new interfaces will increase data transmission speed for each user and provide for increased data capacity per cell. With the increased capacity, the 3G networks will offer operators the flexibility they need to introduce new mobile multimedia services for both business and residential users. At the same time, as the services provided over 3G networks develop, the operators will be increasingly concerned by the long-term evolution of the technologies and the impact they will have upon the market. Due to the development of WLANs, wireless local area networks, and the growth of public coverage (mainly WiFi hotspots based on the 802.11x standards), mobile users will soon be able to choose a complementary wireless connection method while roaming within range of a hotspot. This will give them access to the same communication services – generally at lower tariffs than practised by mobile operators. In Romania, as in many other countries, the use of the 2.4 GHz band is not subject to licensing; and this has allowed the development and proliferation of WLAN hotspots. Mobile access to the unlicensed bands (UMA) is a technology that significantly contributed to the creation of the concept of convergence between the cellular and the fixed networks. After becoming a global 3GPP standard, UMA is easy to integrate in the existing mobile networks, supports all WLAN environments and is compatible with the architectures of future networks, including those based upon the IP Multimedia Systems, IMS. IMS facilitates the creation and development of IP-based multimedia services in 3G mobile networks and facilitates the interoperability between the 3G networks and the IP-based fixed networks. The evolution towards convergence is supported by the manufacturers of terminal equipment. They have launched, or intend to launch, high-performance terminal equipment. The new terminals will include digital cameras with high-quality colour screens. They will permit a wide range of specific 3G services (video-telephony, stereo MP3 music, etc.) on one hand, and transparent transfer (from the user’s viewpoint) between mobile networks (GSM/GPRS or UMTS) and fixed-line networks (UMA / WiFi) on the other. The offer of complementary connections for the mobile user has increased as a result of the development of new wireless technologies, including WiMAX and Ultra Wide Band, UWB. The systems based on the fixed radio access, FWA, such as WiMAX, appear to provide possible solutions for alternative access, and might soon become part of the portfolio of cellular network providers. The typical scenario for the application of WiMAX includes the extension of the coverage area for MAN, metropolitan area network, and a ‘backhaul’ connection to the backbone network for the WiFi islands. This will extend affordable wireless broadband connectivity for business and residential applications such as mobile Internet, mobile office and video gaming. The authorities responsible for the management of the frequency spectrum look forward to identifying the licensed or unlicensed frequency bands that may be used for implementing the new technologies. This will call for the harmonisation of Romanian legislation with that adopted by the European Union. Romania’s strategy regarding the granting of WiMAX licences is currently under development. The specific ways of re-using the frequencies already allocated in the 3.5 GHz band, and the possibility of identifying new frequencies in this band – by expanding the band – are under consideration. The models of the future wireless networks, both cellular and fixed, will focus on an open wireless architecture, OWA, that will be cost-effective and spectrum-efficient and, at the same time, ensure high-speed transmission. This will only become possible by implementing state-of-the-art technologies and through the convergence of mobile and fixed wireless systems using the IP technology. The business model will move from a network-based model towards a user-based model. ANRC, in its capacity as Romania’s regulatory authority, will permanently monitor this evolution and, in view of fulfilling its objective of ensuring a truly competitive environment, will collaborate with the authorities responsible for the spectrum management, media (broadcasting) and IT. Romania, as a Member State of the European Union, and ANRC – as a member of the European Regulators Group and the Independent Regulators Group – will coordinate the regulatory strategy and measures with those of the other Member States, in order to consolidate its internal electronic communications market.