Regulators accused of living in past

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Series Details Vol.4, No.6, 12.2.98, p3
Publication Date 12/02/1998
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Date: 12/02/1998

By Peter Chapman

EUROPEAN telecoms operators and manufacturers are calling for urgent reform of the industry's top regulatory body, complaining it is out of touch with the realities of a liberal telecommunications market.

They say the United Nations' Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which works towards standardisation and development in the telecoms industry, is locked into a past age of government-owned monopolies.

The campaign is being led by Europe's public telecoms operators group ETNO and kit manufacturers ECTEL, who are seeking European Commission support for their call for change.

ECTEL secretary-general Ib Gronvaldt says that the ITU's decision-making process should be reformed to give companies, as well as governments, the power to influence major decisions, such as the choice of standards. The organisation's voting structure currently allows governments alone to vote on key issues, with companies involved only as technical advisers.

Following the world-wide liberalisation of telecoms markets, many operators and manufacturers are no longer part of government departments. As a result, says Gronvaldt, former state-owned companies with important telecoms expertise are being denied the chance to influence ITU decisions.

"With liberalisation, they are being squeezed out. We are saying that decision-making in the ITU should reflect its membership," he said.

Without reform, argues Gronvaldt, world standards-making and approval will bypass the ITU altogether and end up in the hands of private, industry-led de facto standard-setting bodies.

ECTEL accepts, however, that governments should be allowed to retain control over issues affecting national sovereignty such as radio frequency allocation.

European telecoms operators and manufacturers are calling for urgent reform of the International Telecommunications Union.

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