|Issue:||Latin America II 1997|
|Topic:||Telecommunications in the Americas|
|Author:||Roberto Blois Montes de Souza|
CITEL plays a direct role in the Americas to promote the economic development of the regions, via its publications, training programmes, meetings and policy-making. Working closely with member countries, other international and regional organisations, and private sector companies, CITEL hopes to promote the development of the telecommunications in the region to achieve an increasing quality of life and a common position in preparation for the future.
The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, CITEL, is the telecommunications arm of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Its primary purpose is to use all the means at its disposal to facilitate and further the development of telecommunications in the Americas for the purpose of contributing to the economic development of the region. CITEL, like other international and regional organisations, is facing numerous challenges such as: rapid technological change allowing the convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and information technologies, the globalisation of telecommunications, the need to reconsider and in some cases update regulatory aspects, and the future implementation of a free trade zone in the Americas. CITEL members, aware of this information revolution, revitalised the Commission in 1993 so as to anticipate change in a timely fashion. Successful implementation of the CITEL action plan requires the active participation of the private sector and, therefore, the member countries have opened the doors of CITEL to the private sector as associate members in the work of CITEL’s three technical committees. Associate members can participate in CITEL activities, in their own right, but without the right to vote. Associate members also contribute financially to CITEL to cover their participation in the work of the technical committees. CITEL has also intensified its efforts to coordinate its work programme with other regional and international organisations. Regulatory Aspects In March 1996 an update of the “Blue Book: ,Telecommunications policies for the Americas Region” was published to provide its members with a tool to assist them in facing the challenges of reforming the telecommunications sector. Due to many factors, especially technological developments, there has been a rapid change in the demand for telecommunication services. This has brought increasing significance to the telecommunications reform in the Americas Region so as to enable the needs of the customer to be met. Therefore, CITEL, in a joint effort with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), prepared the Blue Book. The Blue Book emphasises the importance of a well conceived telecommunications policy and a sound regulatory framework, mindful of the peculiarities of each country and attentive to the advancement of technology. It is intended to be a tool assisting the countries of the Americas Region to face challenges in the telecoms sector but it is also a dynamic document which will continue to be updated taking into account new possibilities arising from the globalisation of markets and services. Some of the key questions that surround the regulations of telecommunications are: · Monopoly vs competition? · Liberalisation and privatisation? . · How can Universal Service be implemented and who should pay? · How will telecommunication networks be licensed? · How to ensure a competitive environment? The Blue Book gives an overview of the possibilities open to each issue. This has not been the only endeavour in helping countries to receive updated information, as this publication has also been followed by a survey on administrative procedures. The final objective is to obtain information on the regulatory structures and procedures implemented throughout the region. It will be a way of promoting the evolution of the regulatory systems. The survey will be the basis of a document on “The Regulatory Process in Telecommunications: Developing Regulatory Structures in the Americas Region” a joint effort of CITEL, the member countries and the ITU. Globalisation as it is illustrated by services such as the Global Mobile Personal Communication Systems (GMPCS) has made us reconsider many regulatory and technical aspects. The member countries have recognised the importance of an early introduction of these new services and are currently sharing views on policies to be consistent with national objectives and to achieve the implementation of these services. Technical Aspects CITEL is a forum where each member (pertaining to the government or private sector) provides, to the best of their knowledge, information concerning the implementation of new technologies and applications based on the operational experience available. This concept has been emphasised recently by the holding of seminars on the most important subject of the moment such as: Local Multi-point Distribution/Communication Systems; applications in the band 1910-1930 MHz; digital TV and digital video compression, etc. One key issue is to achieve the interconnectivity of networks and the interoperability of services and it is a clear statement of the standards required to ensure the compatibility among systems. So far the following coordinated standards have been established: Common Channel Signaling System No.7, Intelligent Network, and Personal Communications Services (PCS). CITEL, while taking into account the urgent requirement of the harmonisation of spectrum usage, has started a joint project with the Regional Office of the ITU to prepare a database of spectrum usage. This will help towards a simplified coordination for the introduction of new services. The following are only some of the many issues with which CITEL is concerned: certification of equipment, value added services, networks and services utilising small aperture terminals (VSAT), personal communications systems, geo-stationary satellite systems, unlicensed personal communications systems, improvement of disaster communications in the region, etc. CITEL has been able to approve guidelines on value added services and the certification of equipment and is at present considering how to accelerate its implementation of the key aspect of the interoperability of networks. An example of how CITEL has been involved with addressing important issues can be seen from the accomplishments of the CITEL member countries at the 1997 World Radiocommunications Meeting of the ITU. The Final proposals were approved during the VIII Meeting of the Permanent Consultative Committee III – Radiocommunications, held in Brasilia, Brazil, June 16-20 1996. Human Resources The main concern of the CITEL member countries is to train and to be able to compete in a liberalised market. So far CITEL has seven training telecommunication centres throughout the Americas and is fostering cooperation between them, recognising the urgent need that employees should be prepared for the changes taking place in the sector. Other Issues In addition, the 1996 meeting of the Senior Telecommunication Officials (STO) hosted by the OAS, adopted a Declaration of Principles and an Action Plan which amplifies and further refines the guidance given to CITEL by the Summit of the Americas. CITEL has a schedule of activities averaging one meeting per month for one of the four permanent committees and these meetings are included in the budget. In addition, some of the working groups hold separate meetings and seminars which are funded by external sources. In order to work more efficiently and effectively, CITEL is in the process of planning and implementing a facility for handling electronic documents. Such a facility is viewed as an effective means of document preparation, distribution and coordination. In establishing working relationships with the sub-regional telecommunications organisations, CITEL has found it practical to enter into formal working agreements, one of which has been reached with AHCIET. Negotiations are taking place with ASETA and COMTELCA, as well as plans to explore the possibility of entering into such an agreement with the Caribbean Telecommunication Union. Conclusion It is clear that member countries and associate members have found a forum in CITEL where they may define common strategies and identify applications and pilot projects of interest to promote the development of the telecommunications in the region increasing the quality of life and achieving a common position as we prepare ourselves for the future.