Arab region prioritizes study of over-the-top services and mobile roaming

Standardization experts of the Arab region have prioritized their analysis of the economic impact of over-the-top services, in addition calling for ITU to afford greater emphasis to the evaluation of costing methodologies for international mobile roaming.

These were the two chief outcomes of a meeting of the ITU-T Study Group 3 Regional Group for the Arab Region (SG3RG-ARB) which was part of a series of ITU events in Kuwait City, 23-25 November 2014, hosted by the Ministry of Communications of Kuwait. SG3RG-ARB coordinates the Arab region’s contributions to the work of ITU-T Study Group 3, the standardization expert group responsible for the development of guiding principles for the economic, policy and tariff frameworks governing international telecommunications.

The meeting of SG3RG-ARB identified over-the-top-services as an area of particular relevance to developing countries, recognizing that service convergence and the growth of over-the-top voice, video and text communications have called for the review of aspects of regulatory frameworks and competition policy. The group has declared its intention to submit a contribution on the economic impact of over-the-top services to the next meeting of ITU-T Study Group 3 in March 2015, and has in addition called for ITU to commission an analytical report on the subject.

SG3RG-ARB will also contribute actively to ITU’s study of the regulatory aspects of international mobile roaming. The group has initiated work on a revision to the standard that outlines regulatory principles for roaming cost methodologies, Recommendation ITU-T D.98 “Charging in international mobile roaming service”, which it will propose to the next meeting of ITU-T Study Group 3.

The group has also proposed that ITU publish a Technical Paper reporting on the findings of an ITU-commissioned study conducted in 2013 on a potential cost model for international mobile roaming tariffs. This study was commissioned in response to the recommendations of the ITU High-Level Workshop on Regulatory and Economic Aspects of Roaming, 23-24 September 2013. Recalling the success of that workshop in bringing greater clarity to the positions of various stakeholders, SG3RG-ARG requested that ITU organize a follow-up workshop on the subject in 2015.

The meeting of SG3RG-ARB was held in conjunction with meetings of the Arab Regional Groups for ITU-T Study Group 2 (Operational aspects) and ITU-T Study Group 5 (Environment and climate change).

The membership-driven meetings of the Arab Regional Groups were held in collocation with two open forums, providing opportunity for the groups to consider the perspectives of organizations outside the ITU membership.

An ITU Regional Economic and Financial Forum on Telecommunications/ICTs, 23 November 2014, hosted information exchange on best-practice costing and tariff policies in the Arab region, with a case study presented by Bahrain on its experience in the bottom-up development of cost models. Other areas of focus to the Forum included international mobile roaming, regulation and licensing regimes in the converged digital environment, and the economic impact of the Internet and over-the-top services.

An ITU Regional Standardization Forum, 25 November 2014, offered participants an overview of best practices in international standards development as well as the measures introduced by ITU to assist developing countries’ participation in its standardization work. Of particular emphasis were the advantages of establishing a ‘national standardization secretariat’ to coordinate a country’s participation in ITU-T Study Groups, and participants were also provided with an overview of the standardization work of ITU-T Study Groups 2 and 5 in anticipation of the collocated meetings of their Arab Regional Groups.

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