LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – MENA, DUBAI: In an ideal 5G environment, telecoms regulators would go out of business and the industry would move towards a generalised approach focused on competition and privacy, Etisalat’s chief legal and regulatory affairs officer Kamal Shehadi (pictured, centre) argued.
In a panel session on modernising regulations for the 5G era, Shehadi said policy makers should be taking “their foot off the brake” and allowing the ecosystem to develop, warning that a lack of spectrum availability and exorbitant pricing will hold 5G back.
“Regulators say the price is set, but set by who?,” he asked. “It is often based on a study by consultants or on benchmarks, but no-one really knows what we are getting into. It is overpriced because it is driven by a need to generate revenue.”
Shehadi added that if he was to imagine “a more ideal environment for 5G”, regulators would be no more and a generalised type of regulation related to competition and privacy, “the key building blocks for 5G”, would be in place.
“Those are things that will determine if the promise of 5G will be delivered,” he said. “It is a very radical thing to say, because as fast as technology evolves, the inverse is true about regulation and the inverse is true about ideas that become policy.”
Shehadi added regulators should take “a back seat” on 5G and intervene only when they have to, while slamming “unrealistic targets”.
“They shouldn’t think of 5G like 3G or 4G rollout. Some of the stuff we have seen is unrealistic. I don’t know where they get these ideas from.”
Align policy with technology
Homoud Alkussayer, VP of governance and regulatory affairs at STC (pictured, right), said there was an opportunity for regulators to think about market development, while reducing taxation and royalty payments to support operators in the long term.
“If we are all agreeing that it is vital to transform the whole ecosystem the regulator needs to reduce frequency prices, site acquisition costs, taxation. This is how the regulator can support us and enable the ecosystem to evolve.”
Alkussayer added regulators are now more vital than ever, but concurred with Shehadi that there was a big need to align policy with what is required in the market.
“There has been a change in technology and customer behaviour from voice to data. The market is stagnated and the challenge is big. We are not calling for them to refrain, but they need to introduce incentive regulation.”
Mani Manimohan, senior director public policy at the GSMA (pictured, left), warned there should not be an environment of no rules, because intervention is required in the event of “market failure or a harm to consumers”.
“When we argue for lowering the regulatory burden, we mean there shouldn’t be rules set up before an event or harm has been proven,” he explained.Subscribe to our daily newsletter