- Reducing Carbon Emissions
- Communications 2.0
- Economy and the Credit Crunch
- Electronic Communications Framework Review
- GSM Gateways
- Interception and Retention of Communications Data
- Internet Governance
- Loss of Personal Data
- Mobile Roaming
- Next Generation Access / Next Generation Networks / 21CN
- Net Neutrality
- Number Translation Services
- Resilience & Security
Reducing carbon emissions
Research suggests that IT is responsible for about one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year - between two and four per cent of global energy.
Agreements following the Kyoto Protocol require the UK to reduce greenhouses gases by 12.5% average in 2008-2012 compared to 1990 levels. The UK Government has set its own goal for reducing carbon dioxide emissions at 20% below the 1990 level by 2010, through its Climate Change Programme. It aims to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 through a combination of energy efficiency in the short term and renewables in the long term.
CMA is interested in how IT can be used to help reduce greenhouse gases by making businesses more eco-friendly and sustainable. Working with the Carbon Trust through the Carbon Intent Project, we have started a long journey aimed at measuring the carbon savings achievable through homeworking and tele-conferencing.
Our Carbon Intent Guidelines were published on 20th April 2009
We are currently working towards Phase II
Our social use of online networking sites, blogs, wikis and video-sharing is now empowering the organisations for which we work. Businesses are always looking for better ways of pursuing and managing their quests for knowledge as well as building trusted virtual communities to enable their collaboration with partners, suppliers and customers. Communications 2.0 is a solution to all these requirements.
Communications 2.0 is neither technology nor application. Rather, it is an attitude or behaviour that demonstrates our maturing behaviour towards using the Internet. Peer-to-peer collaboration has always been a central driver for productivity, but this human interface is usually difficult to capture online, especially without strong corporate branding. Communications 2.0 helps to break down this enormous barrier, providing tremendous opportunities to empower the business through creativity, information sharing, and collaboration. It is a step closer towards the convergence of physical and virtual worlds.
Illicit peer to peer file-sharing
Copyright owners (rights holders) feel that they are struggling to develop effective business models in the digital world against the illicit peer-to-peer (P2P) copying of copyright material. Existing, court-based remedies appear slow, expensive and have proved largely inefficient. They have sought to engage with communications service providers, such as ISPs to agree ways in which they can co-operate to reduce high volume of illicit P2P file-sharing. However, communications service providers remain concerned that any obligations placed upon them which are unfair and disproportionate will compromise their relationship with subscribers - their customers, and lose them revenue.
CMA is engaged with UK government which is minded to introduce a new co-regulatory regime in 2009. We do not think that a new legal regime is necessarily a quick-fix remedy to illicit P2P file-sharing; that quality services, consumer education and ease of use are central to effective business models; that the courts must provide the checks and balances needed in any proposed regulatory regime. We also believe that Ofcom is not the correct regulator to oversee a new regime as it would create a conflict of interest across its intended remit.
Economy and the 'Credit Crunch'
The recent credit crunch is now providing us with a new and serious challenge since conventional wisdom would indicate that the communications sector will not escape its effects.
In this economic climate, businesses may have little choice but to innovate in the way they purchase and manage ICT. Those which stop investing may lose ground to their rivals, and de-motivate and hold back their workers. One mainstream driver for innovation, particularly across the public sector, is Green ICT, and early adoption is likely to reap medium-long term benefits for the business.
Using ICT to maintain control over financial spend is important. Adopting efficient, flexible and unified systems infrastructures should offer offer value for money, support different ways of working - remote workers, dispersed teams, mobile workers - and allow different types of content (voice, data, and video) to be combined and run across the same network.
Read EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding's speech on the financial crisis 25th November 2008
Electronic communications framework review
To promote innovation, increase competition, and improve efficiency in the communications sector, the European Union introduced the New Regulatory Framework in 2002. The framework was implemented under UK law by the Communications Act 2003 as well as other regulations. The framework focused on services to consumers rather than those to business users, and this exclusion was reflected in the remit of Ofcom, the UK regulator. The market, however, is changing fast. Increased competition has now brought new entrants into the sector throughout Europe and has forced incumbent providers to raise their service standards as well as to reduce their prices. In November 2007, the European Commission launched a review of the framework and new UK legislation is now expected in 2010.
CMA aims to ensure that a new Communications Act will address the needs of business users and that Ofcom will have an accompanying remit with extended powers from those under the present regime. We support the creation of a single market for communications services that offer dedicated connectivity, guaranteed levels of security, quality of services, and seamless applications and services.
GSM gateways are devices containing one or more subscriber identity modules (SIMs) for one or more mobile networks, which enable calls from fixed telephones to mobile telephones to be routed directly into the relevant mobile network. A call made via a GSM gateway appears to the mobile network to have originated from a mobile 'phone registered to that network and so will often attract a cheaper call rate than an ordinary fixed to mobile call.
Both Ofcom and the UK courts have recently clarified that it is entirely legal under UK law for end-users (whether businesses or ordinary consumers) to buy, install and use GSM gateways for their own use. However it is currently illegal under UK law for anyone to use GSM gateway equipment to provide a communications service by way of business to another person or organisation, irrespective of where the gateway equipment is located, or how many or few end-users are connected to each gateway.
The prohibition on 'commercial' use applies equally to the mobile network operators (MNOs) as to other organisations, since the MNOs' licences do not currently extend to the installation and use of GSM gateways. CMA strongly believes that this 'prohibition' on commercial use should be lifted to encourage enterprise and competition.
Interception and retention of communications data
The prevention and detection of crime and terrorism, as well protecting the UK's' economic well-being, are just some of the reasons why the authorities want to obtain communications data - details about subscribers and recipients of telephone calls, email use and Internet browsing. The actual content of a communication does not constitute communications data. CMA believes that data interception and retention regimes should be certain, fair and proportionate, and contain appropriate checks and balances to ensure that service providers are not disadvantaged unnecessarily, especially on costs. Current legislation appears to conflict, and the demands placed upon service providers to obtain communications data may become excessive, time consuming and costly. CMA is also increasingly concerned about the impact interception and data retention regimes have upon privacy and net neutrality.
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 places duties on service providers to allow lawful authorities to intercept communications, as well as allowing organisations to intercept for lawful business purposes. There is always concern that the addition of further public bodies will increase the scope of interception, leading to additional financial and management costs for providers. CMA works with the Home Office and Interception of Communications Commissioner to ensure that the UK's interception regime remains fair and proportionate.
After 9/11, the UK introduced the Anti-terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001 that set down a voluntary regime for retention of communications data. However, the London terrorist bombings in 2005 forced UK government to press for mandatory data retention rules across the European Union, and therefore the Data Retention Directive was introduced in 2006. The UK chose to implement the Directive in two parts. The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007 focus on communications data concerning the telephone and email, but data relating to the Internet was deemed more complicated to retain and implementation was therefore delayed. However, the Communications Data Bill has now been introduced to clear up this issue.
UK Government now wants to create one database containing retained communications data and this aspiration creates some fundamental issues for CMA. For example, who is authorised to have access to the database, and have enough checks and balances been introduced to prevent unauthorised access? Another practical issue is how to data mine such a database - and who pays? Deep packet inspection may also raise issues over copyright protection and require the introduction of further legislation to find a resolution. Finally, both the Information Commissioner and the Director of Public Prosecutions have spoken out against a single government database.
Discussions on Internet governance - the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet - have taken place since 2004. The United Nation’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has been established to help channel debate on, and find a solution as to whether a US, European Union or global institution is now best suited to govern the Internet.
CMA does not express any strong views on Internet governance given that the current structure, managed through ICANN in the USA, is working effectively for the communications market. However, Internet governance is politically-driven, and with globalisation, some now argue that Internet governance should remain neutral and not dominated by one country. UK government certainly has an interest in, and is contributing to, global discussions. We will continue to work with BCS to ensure that the benefits of sound Internet governance will create confidence in the delivery of electronic services to business users.
The Internet is a worldwide, publicly accessible series of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet Protocol (IP). Every device connected to the Internet has at least one IP address - like a postal address. IPv4, the current version of the Internet Protocol which was conceived in the 1970s, provides just over 4000 million addresses. However, this address pool is expected to run out by early 2011. To replace IPv4, a sixth version of the Internet protocol has been developed - IPv6. It is expected to make the Internet more stable, efficient, powerful, secure and private, and so is crucial for the development of the knowledge economy. The European Union has also developed a policy on IPv6.
On the one hand organisations might want to consider planning their migration to IPv6. Delay may increase the amount of work needed to be done and will reduce the time organisations have to implement IPv6 when they can no longer obtain IPv4 addresses. On the other hand, IPv6 could promise to be another y2k but with no hard end date. Even after deciding upon migration, may still have to deal with dual protocols within their networks. Suppliers such as Internet Service Providers may also be left by the wayside if they do not have a plan on how to grow their businesses after 2010. CMA can only continue to warn!
Loss of personal data
Recent high profile losses of personal data by several government departments and their outsourced companies have damaged public confidence in their ability to safeguard any records they hold about us. This vilification comes at a time when UK government wants to introduce an identity card database to store our personal information and another to store retained communications data. Both the European Commission and UK MPs now favour the introduction of new legislation to deal with the reporting of lost personal data, and the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) is also looking to strengthen his powers of enforcement regarding data protection. However, for the time being, the UK government has rejected calls for new legislation, citing that notification of data breaches to the ICO should be a matter of good practice rather than law.
The issue of loss of personal data remains at the fringe of CMA membership for the moment, but may become mainstream if data losses need to be reported by law. CMA is not necessarily against new legislation, but would always urge caution to ensure that unwarranted damage to commercial reputations is avoided at all costs. It is not entirely clear when reporting loss should take place, particularly, for example, if the data is encrypted.
Whilst CMA welcomes the government's proposal to publish guidance on when organisations should notify the ICO of breaches of the 8 Data Protection Principles, we still remain concerned about apportioning responsibility and blame for data loss. For example, some recent government data losses occurred through the actions of companies to whom government had outsourced its work, and so were not immediately to blame for the loss,but still had responsibility for the personal data.
When you travel to a foreign country, your mobile phone keeps working: you are roaming. You can make & receive mobile phone calls, write text messages (SMS) or download songs. Your calls, SMS and other data services are operated by a foreign network because your home provider does not normally operate in that country. For providing this service, the foreign network operator charges your home operator and your home operator passes this additional cost on to you.
However, international roaming tariffs still remain high, indicating that the market is still uncompetitive and consumers are paying unreasonable prices. Operators and service providers are already working in a unified way that is skewed against the wider business community and individual customers. Regulation would encourage further use of mobile telephones and networked software devices for all travellers within the European Union, and travellers would no longer be forced to buy local SIM cards or use local payphones.
In September 2008, the European Commission introduced a proposal to bring down the price of text messages set while travelling in another EU country and to ensure that citizens are kept adequately informed of the charges that apply for data roaming services.
Whilst CMA believes that the regulation of roaming charges will accelerate the development of the European Single Market for businesses and the economy, we call for regulation at retail level as the regulation of wholesale prices alone is unlikely to have the desired impact to reduce prices and is clearly insufficient on its own. Network coverage from UK mobile network operators (MNOs) is still poor, but the attraction for broadband mobile may increase demand for universal coverage. The 2012 Olympic Games are an opportunity to help resolve these issues nationally.
Next generation access / Next generation networks / 21CN
CMA believes that the imminent deployment of Next Generation Networks (NGNs) provides an excellent opportunity to agree and regulate improved interfaces to enable operators to interconnect and co-operate in the delivery of services. An NGN features one network that transports all information and services (voice, data, and other media) by encapsulating these into packets, similar to the Internet. Services are no longer inextricably linked with separate infrastructures. They are instead provided via computing services linked to these common cores.
NGN deployment opens up the possibility of defining a much reduced set of generic data interfaces, which, when coupled with Next Generation Access (NGA) to ‘open’ inter-module and signalling protocols and to appropriate Application Programming Interfaces to control the intelligence of NGNs, will enable a service independent approach to regulation to be developed. This approach is a necessity, since the architecture of NGNs not only allows the provision of today’s voice and data services and their obvious multimedia generalisations, but also an unlimited range of new services limited only by human imagination.
BT’s 21CN project is providing the UK’s largest NGN investment to consolidate existing separate networks into one. The aim is to ensure that converged services are delivered faster, more efficiently, and cost-effectively, with nationwide coverage. 21CN has massive implications for the electricity and water industries since the infrastructure has to be built physically, underground. 21CN introduces many other challenges to NGNs, including overhauling existing networks, planning migration, competition and cost.
Net neutrality - keeping the Internet free from restrictions on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, on the modes of communication allowed, which does not restrict content, sites or platforms and where communication is not unreasonably degraded by other communications streams - has been fiercely debated since early 2000. The argument between freedom of choice and any future ability to upgrade networks and launch next generation network services is fundamental in deciding whether net neutrality rules should be introduced. UK regulator Ofcom has taken a 'laissez faire' approach to net neutrality, basically leaving it to the free market to decide how it will work out.
CMA welcomes traffic profiling so long as it is done towards low latency traffic, for example, voice. If traffic profiling is used to discriminate against competitors, to throttle bandwidth, or to assist anti-competitive practice (such as application of a walled garden business model by a dominant operator), then it is not acceptable.
Number translation services
A Number Translation Service (NTS) call is a call to a phone number that usually begins with 08 or 09. These numbers put you through to a range of entertainment and information services including banks, help lines, public and government services, and pay-as-you-go Internet services. O8 and 09 numbers have no connection with any particular geographical place in the UK, unlike 01 and 02 numbers. When you call an NTS service, a telecoms provider which works for that service receives (the industry term is ‘terminated’) your call. So, when you pay your own phone company for the call, revenue is shared between your phone company, the telecoms provider and the company offering the service.
Ofcom's NTS policy
Ofcom has now finalised its NTS policy. They had two concerns, the first about business arrangements between the various phone companies and telecoms providers, and the companies who actually provide the services (service providers). The second concern was raised by phone customers who were asking why NTS calls often cost more than calls to 01 and 02 numbers and why it was so difficult to find out how much these calls cost before making them. The telecoms industry also raised their own concerns about how these rules worked. The terminating providers recognised that although they may receive profit from an NTS call, they had little say in how much that profit is, or how much will be available for handing over to NTS service providers. This uncertainty often led to disputes. Furthermore, different rules existed on how money earned for connecting 0844 and 0871 calls was shared, compared to 0845 and 0870 calls. Finally, there were also concerns over pay-as-you-go Internet services that use 0845 numbers. Lower pricing by BT could reduce the profits of Internet service providers.
Following consultation, the final NTS policy has resulted in a defeat for CMA. From January 2008, there will be no revenue share on 0870 numbers and the policy now focuses too much on consumer protection, which is disruptive to businesses. Consumers and communications providers look likely to end up paying more, businesses get no revenue share, whilst BT and the mobile network operators (MNOs) can put their prices up and keep more revenue. CMA is not happy with this situation because it distorts competition and creates an unlevel playing field.
Resilience & security
The resilience and security of ICT infrastructures and the information they carry are critical to maintaining user trust and confidence. Yet, security still tends to be viewed as a technical matter rather than a mainstream business issue. Human behaviour and our knowledge of threats and remedies are also integral components.
CMA believes that a holistic European and global approach to security is essential, since information security concerns a number of policy fields such as privacy, industrial policy, international trade, citizens' rights, law enforcement, defence, and much more.