Sunday, February 13, 2005

ERG Common Statement for VoIP regulatory approaches 

In my previous post I pointed to the European Regulators meeting last week.

As a result the ERG published a Common Statement on VoIP and its regulation.

This Common Statement contains:

-the ERG Common Statement on VoIP in general
-a specific statement for Numering and Number Portability
-a specific statement on access to emergency services

It also contains explanatory and background text and also two Annexes:

Summary of the Questionare on Numbering and Number Portability
Summary of the Emergency Services Questionare

This document will be very important for future of VoIP and IP communication in Europe and the harmonization of regulation. But especially the annexes show that there is still some work ahead.

I include the statements here, but I recommend to look at the document itself for further information:

The ERG Common Statement:

The ERG recognises that:

  • VoIP holds potentially significant benefits for the market and for the users.
  • The European regulatory framework provides the legal framework related to provision and use of VoIP in Europe today.
  • VoIP services exist today and are currently evolving. At this point no common conclusions on the evolution or revolution of the market posed by VoIP can be drawn. The market has not yet developed sufficiently.
  • A particular challenge is to apply existing regulations to services based on different technologies (e.g. circuit-switched vs. IP) in a technologically neutral manner. This is especially complicated when specific service features (like nomadic use) are linked specifically to a particular technology such as IP.

The ERG agrees that:

  • The regulatory approach to VoIP in Europe under the European regulatory framework[ for the benefit of consumers should enable the greatest possible level of innovation and competitive entry in the market, whilst ensuring that consumers are adequately protected.
  • Application and interpretation of rights and obligations in relation to VoIP should be in accordance with the European regulatory framework including the policy goals and regulatory principles existing today.
  • Legal analysis of the European regulatory framework in relation to VoIP by the ERG is more appropriate when the market has further developed.
  • The NRAs will further clarify the rights and obligations for VoIP providers.
  • The NRAs are committed to address barriers to market entry if they arise and in accordance with the European regulatory framework.
  • Consumers and service providers should be provided adequate information and be empowered to make informed choices about services and service provision.

ERG future work

  • The ERG will provide information and guidance on VoIP related issues in order to increase predictability in the market and the consistent application of the European regulatory framework across Europe for the benefit of consumers and service providers.
  • The ERG will continue to monitor and facilitate the development of the VoIP-market.
  • The future work will be addressed according to the IRG/ERG Work Program.

ERG Statement on Numbering and Number Portability:

  • In order to foster competition by stimulating the emergence of new services as well as promoting number portability numbering plans should be technologically neutral, based on the service descriptions and the same number ranges should in principle be available for both traditional voice and VoIP services.
  • Number portability is an important point from the consumer’s as well as the provider’s point of view while enabling end-users to retain their telephone number when changing a service provider. Number portability is one of the main enablers of competition.
  • Conditions concerning number portability should be equal for similar types of voice services within the scope of national numbering plans in order to facilitate consumer choice and promote effective competition.

ERG Statement on Emergency Services

  • Access to Emergency services is extremely important for citizens, irrespective of how a voice service may be classified for legal and regulatory purposes.
  • From a public policy point of view it is desirable that access to emergency services is available from as wide a range of electronic communications services as possible.
  • VoIP emergency calls from fixed or otherwise known locations should be routed to the nearest emergency centre on the basis of the contractually agreed physical address.[1]
  • When calling the emergency number, caller location information should be provided to the extent technically feasible.
  • In those cases where the caller location cannot be determined by the VoIP provider (most likely in the case of nomadic use of VoIP services), the end-user should be clearly and unambiguously informed by the VoIP provider about any restrictions in routing emergency calls and providing caller location information and the potential consequences.
  • Further requirements for nomadic VoIP services related to routing and caller location information should be discussed after technology and standards have matured.
  • Further requirements related to other types of VoIP services, SIP emergency calls, SMS emergency messages, email emergency messages, etc. should be discussed after technology and standards have matured.

[1] Note this is not relevant in countries where the first stage emergency operator answers all calls regardless of geographic location

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