Major Sector Initiatives: Third mobile provider, digital switchover, broadband policy
As the independent body charged with regulating both the telecommunications and the broadcasting sectors, the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) carries out a wide range of activities. The goal is to ensure that the nation’s citizens enjoy high quality, affordable and efficient Internet, mobile, telephone and broadcasting services.
TATT is currently involved in strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for the provision of telecommunications and broadcasting services in Trinidad and Tobago including amendments to the Telecommunications Act.
The amendments are intended to deepen competition, ensure regulatory certainty in the market and increase investment in the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and the ICT sector, as a whole.
Trinidad and Tobago has enjoyed an explosion in ICT services and products such as high speed mobile Internet and smartphones.
So far regulation of the sector has led to unprecedented growth. For every 100 people there are already 138 mobile phones and 67 fixed line phones, whilst 57 out of every 100 homes have Internet access (TATT’s Quarterly Market Update – First Quarter 2012).
Yet there is still room for improvement, particularly in the area of increasing access of ICT services to underserved areas and certain demographic groups throughout the nation. As a result TATT is currently undertaking several initiatives for the advancement of the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors. Five of these initiatives are outlined in this article.
TATT is seeking to widen access to basic telecommunications technologies, including telephone and Internet services through the implementation of a Universal Service Fund (USF). The Framework for this USF has already been completed and draft Regulations will be taken to Cabinet.
These Regulations will allow for the collection of funds from providers of telecommunications and broadcasting services to be placed into the USF. This fund will be used to improve widespread access to basic telecommunication services through low-cost, high-quality technologies, particularly in underserved areas.
One of the important areas the fund will work towards is making assistive technologies available to the differently abled.
INTERNET EXCHANGE POINT
TATT has been playing a facilitative role in the establishment of an Internet Exchange Point in Trinidad and Tobago (see article on IXPs on page 6). An IXP will permit all Internet traffic originating and ending locally to be routed within Trinidad and Tobago rather than be routed through the USA. This will help ISPs to lower their costs, increase the quality of service and provide a platform for a local, value added Internet-based entrepreneurship. The IXP facility will be in place before the end of 2013.
TATT is collaborating with the other key stakeholders in putting in place a national broadband strategy and plan. The intention is to make available to the people of Trinidad and Tobago broadband speeds up to 100Mbs.
TATT has been working closely with Government to provide citizens with the option of number portability. Number portability allows consumers to change their service providers without changing their phone numbers (See article on number portability on page 14). The Cabinet of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has approved the Telecommunications (Numbering) regulations and number portability is expected to be available by 2013.
DIGITAL TERRESTRIAL TELEVISION
TATT is hoping to implement the process of moving from analogue to digital television broadcasting by 2015. This process is called the “digital switchover.”
The switch to digital, which is a requirement of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), will have numerous benefits for viewers, broadcasters and the wider society. Most importantly, it will make much more efficient use of spectrum used in broadcasting. Another benefit is the potential for television broadcasters to offer additional services to their customers. This not only gives broadcasters new lines of business but also gives consumers wider access to new services and new choices in service providers.
To further deepen the competition and reduce prices, TATT is finalising plans to invite bids for a third mobile provider to offer service in Trinidad and Tobago. The invitation to tender should be issued before the end of this year.