ComReg publishes draft 5-year strategy for electronic communications services

Strategy outlines five key trends in electronic communications, as well as five top-level ‘strategic intentions’.

Yesterday, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) published its draft strategy, which outlines the regulator’s priorities for the next five years.

The role of ComReg is to ensure that communications operate “in the interests of end-users and society”, and the organisation’s vision states that ComReg wants consumers and businesses in Ireland to have “affordable, high-quality, and widespread access to communications services”.

The strategy outlines how ComReg intends to go about fulfilling its role and realising this vision.

Before laying out its priorities for the next few years, ComReg outlines five trends which it sees as being in play in the electronic communications industry. These are:

  1. Non-uniform end-user experiences. For example, while 2G and 3G mobile coverage in Ireland is well over 90% of the population, and the rollout of 4G networks is ongoing, ComReg has identified that there appears to be a trend of growing dissatisfaction among end-users with the quality of coverage in certain geographic areas. In relation to this point, ComReg plans to generate and publish a national coverage map in 2018, which will help consumers choose the network provider that best meets their needs.
  2. Expanded set of related, relevant markets. This includes telecommunications companies offering a variety of retail and wholesale services, as well as companies in related markets, such as those providing content and services over the internet.
  3. Increase in connected things. The next wave of innovation is anticipated to be in relation to connected ‘things’, and the ‘internet of things’. It is predicted that, in Ireland, the number of connected devices will exceed 1 million by 2020, not including smartphones, tablets or computers. ComReg says it ‘is conscious of its role in relation to the facilitation of innovation and investment’.
  4. The continued evolution of networks. Due to these trends, there will be different requirements for future networks in terms of capacity, speeds etc - for example, 5G is seen as a standard to aim for in relation to wireless.
  5. Changing regulatory framework. Ireland sits within the wider European regulatory framework, so ComReg has said that one of its challenges is to contribute effectively to the process of evolving regulation.

ComReg’s five ‘strategic intentions’

In addition to the trends, ComReg has laid out five key ‘strategic intentions’ for its work in the coming years.

  1. Competition: ComReg will aim to ensure that the market delivers innovation and the greatest possible choice of wholesale and retail operators. Switching is directly related to this, and ComReg has identified barriers to switching, such as restrictive contracts, or a lack of easy-to-understand information - these tie in with the switching barriers Switcher.ie highlighted earlier this year. ComReg wants to ensure that there are low barriers to consumers exercising their choice, which will be good news for all of us.
  2. Consumer protection: ComReg will aim to ensure that consumers can choose and use communications services with confidence. This involves setting rules to make sure that consumers can access basic services, and that they are armed with the information they need to engage with the market with confidence.
  3. Investment: ComReg intends to work to ensure that efficient investment in electronic communications enables affordable, high-quality and widespread access to communications services and applications. This includes playing a role in advising and supporting the State where there are State interventions, like the National Broadband Plan.
  4. Enforcement and compliance: Part of ComReg’s function is to ensure compliance by operators with their regulatory obligations.
  5. Organisation: ComReg aims to be an effective and relevant regulator. It will achieve this by keeping up with technological and market developments and future-proofing by lobbying for changes to legislation that it deems relevant and important.

Consultation period

As this strategy is in draft at the moment, ComReg has opened up a consultation period, during which time stakeholders can submit written comments on the strategy.

This period runs until 17 February 2017, and, after analysing and considering the comments received, ComReg will review the Draft Strategy Statement, and update it, where appropriate.

Further information is available on the ComReg website.