Saturday, September 10, 2005
One of the reasons it took so long was that the consulation contained 87 questions, really exhaustive and in-depth. The cornerstones are surprisingly few, compact and basically to the point. They clarify some issues, confuse some others and will of course cause a lot of discussions. I provide a first comment on most of them below.
FYI: die Bundesnetzagentur für Elektrizität, Gas, Telekommunikation, Post und Eisenbahnen (ehemals: Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post) is the German national Superregulator. In English this reads:
The Federal Network Agency for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunications, Post and Railway is a separate higher federal authority within the scope of business of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, and has its headquarters in Bonn. On 13 July 2005 the Regulatory Authority for Telecommunications and Posts which superseded the Federal Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (BMPT) and the Federal Office for Posts and Telecommunications (BAPT), was renamed Federal Network Agency. Moreover, it acts as the root certification authority as provided for by the Electronic Signatures Act. It also includes now the former RegTP (Regulator for Telco Protection ;-)
So what are these cornerstones now? The answer is not 42, it is 7.
Most important: It is clearly stated that these cornerstones are only the first framework of a regulatory treatment of VoIP, recognizing that ...
... dass sich VoIP-Dienste derzeit am Markt erstmals entwickeln und noch nicht absehbar ist, inwieweit sich bestehende und zukünftige Geschäftsmodelle als nachhaltig existenzfähig erweisen werden. Es ist daher aus Sicht der Bundesnetzagentur nicht zielführend und letztlich auch gar nicht möglich, bereits heute ein abschließendes und umfassendes Regelwerk für VoIP, in dem alle sich grundsätzlich stellenden regulatorischen Fragen beantwortet werden, zu erstellen.
... VoIP-Services are currently in a very nascent stage on the market and one cannot envisage how the existing and future business models will work out. Therefore it seems not target-oriented and practically not possible for the Federal Agency to establish a final and complete framework now, answering all regulatory questions.
Nevertheless, the document is a very interesting (and sometimes also amusing) read, a good snapshot of the current discussion on VoIP and related issues in Germany, in Europe and globally.
In the introduction after the usual hot-air the first important statement is that the consultation clearly showed that a common understanding of the term VoIP is missing.
Is VoIP a technology or a service?
Hello: What about VoIP being an application?
Or as we say in Vienna: "Nix Genaues weiss man nicht, dieses aber ebenso"
Translated from Goethe's Faust I:
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!And this after more then 5220 answers (87 x 60).
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor;
The Agency does not care anyway, they say this has to be seen "in context".
Then you read the usual buzzwords such as "light touch", regulation only if necessary and afterwards ("ex-post"), "evolutionary approach", "interim regulations", "technology independent", etc. - basically stating: "Nix is Fix".
BTW, technology independence is the major problem of the whole document. One could summarize:
Telecommunications regulation in Germany (and also elsewhere) is technology independent - as long as the technology is the circuit-switched PSTN.
Ok, let's go to the cornerstones (Eckpunkte).
VoIP-Dienste können geographische und nicht-geographische Nummern nutzen. Die Eckpunkte für Ortsnetzrufnummern werden vollständig umgesetzt.
VoIP-Services may use geographic and non-geographic numbers. The corner stones regarding local numbers will be implemented completely.
Lots of stones lie around here in all corners. What does the last sentence mean?
Local numbers are given only to local residents. But you do not need to have a fixed connection anymore, you need only to have an address there (Wohn- oder Firmensitz). Nomadic usage is possible without any restrictions, problems caused by this (e.g. emergency calls and legal intercept) have to be solved elsewhere. Numbers will be given out in blocks of 100.
I still do not fully understand this restriction to provide local numbers only to local residents, but on the other hand also non-geo numbers may be used (0)32. You may not be reachable internationally with this numbers, e.g. as it is the case with the equivalent number range (0)720 in Austria, but this is your problem. (0)720 numbers, and also corporate numbers (0)5xx (e.g. Telekom Austria +43590591-xxxxx) are also not reachable via Skype.
All numbers for VoIP need to be portable.
Very amusing is the last sentence here: The introduction of a centralized number portability datebase is rejected again: because of organisational and economic reasons.
I would be interesting on which figures this was decided - normally centralized NP DB are introduced for exactly these reasons.
Die Bundesnetzagentur geht davon aus, dass jedenfalls VoIP-Dienste, die einen Zugang ins PSTN ermöglichen, einen Telekommunikationsdienst im Sinne des § 3 Nr. 24 TKG darstellen.
VoIP-Services allowing an access TO the PSTN are telecommunication services according to § 3 Nr. 24 TKG - in European quackspeak: they are PATS and a lot of regulations apply.
Note the TO, there is no FROM. I have no idea if this is done on purpose or by mistake (e.g. to enable SkypeIn?).
The further statements are somewhat confusing, showing the general confusion with this issue.
Again the argument of technology neutral telecommunications services and signal transmission according § 3 Nr. 24 TKG is brought forward, on the other side a caveat is stated that the signal transmission may not be done by the VoIP service provider (aha!), but by the ISP.
In the last paragraph of this section they are basically stating that they have no idea what to do.
Mittelfristig wird die Möglichkeit für Endkunden, DSL-Anschlüsse losgelöst von einem Analog- oder ISDN-Anschluss zu beziehen, wesentlichen Einfluss auf die Erfolgsmöglichkeiten von VoIP haben.
In plain English: there will be Naked DSL (currently NOT available with Deutsche Telekom).
The section is too complicated to be handled here in detail, it also discusses bitstream unbundling, markets and significant market power (SMP). This is very interesting and has to be (and will be) analysed further.
The basic question is only: what the heck has this to do with VoIP? Very much, because the regulation currently is vertical layered and NOT technology neutral. The problem here again is not VoIP, it is the current laws.
Über VoIP-Dienste an festen Standorten realisierte Verbindungen in nationale oder internationale Festnetze sind den Märkten 3 bis 6 der Märkte-Empfehlung der EU-Kommission zuzurechnen.
This section is a very interesting stumbling stone: it says that VoIP-Sevices at fixed locations will be handled according to the market definitions 3 to 6.
-> the incumbent (= DT) has SMP and will be regulated accordingly. I see all the little VoIP providers have opened a bottle of champagne already.
But what means VoIP services at fixed locations in context of Eckpunkt 1, if there is no access provided, but only a civil address? Is this only regulated according to the market definitions if you use a fixed access there? A naked DSL line as discussed in Eckpunkt 3 or a cable access?
This is not consistent.
Die Notruffunktionalität ist unabhängig von der verwendeten Technologie ein wesentliches Merkmal. Die Frage der Bereitstellung von Notrufmöglichkeiten durch Anbieter von VoIP-Diensten und eventuelle Übergangsregelungen sollten daher lösungsorientiert diskutiert werden.
Access to emergency services is independent of technology and the provision of this access by VoIP service providers and migration scenarios should be discussed solution oriented.
I like the point made in the text that this issue should not be discussed reduced to legal statements, but proposes further discussions on practical solutions.
Eine Übergangsregelung zur Sicherstellung der gesetzlichen Überwachungsmaßnahmen wurde im Juli 2005 veröffentlicht.
This means legal intercept. I will not comment on this section , because I am not the expert here (and I do not want to be)
Eine beratende Projektgruppe hochrangiger Telekommunikationsexperten unter Leitung der Bundesnetzagentur zum Thema „Rahmenbedingungen der Zusammenschaltung IP-basierter Netze“ wurde eingerichtet.
This section is basically stating that (surpise!surpise!) IP peering and interconnect is a big issue now and that a project with group of expects was established.
This group of experts will investigate IP Interconnect framework based on a catalogue of questions and develop scenarios.
So IP interconnect seems to be a hot topic, a similar group was established in UK last month or so. IETF voipeer seems to be quite at the point.
I will discuss the catalogue of questions in a separate entry.
Nice blog. Lot of useful information and good work with the translation. I am interested to know if you have done any further study on VoIP regulations. Would love to have a chat with you sometime if you care for it. Please feel free to drop me a line with your number at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will love to call you to have a quick word with you on the subject.