LIVE FROM MOBILE 360 LATIN AMERICA: Tom Phillips, chief regulatory and government affairs officer of the GSMA, kicked off today’s event by claiming that “we need to think afresh” about how the telecoms sector is regulated, due to the changing nature of services and competition.

Phillips noted that in the period to 2020, the industry is expected to spend around $200 billion on building out infrastructure, “more than the annual GDP of Ecuador, more than twice the GDP of Panama – this is a huge, huge, number”.

But “that investment will only be successful and only be available if the economics of the industry and what goes over the top of that infrastructure are sound and supportive. And that is a challenge, because at the moment the future is unclear, it’s quite uncertain, there’s a lot of change in the industry,” he noted.

Phillips feels “very strongly” that the concept of “same service, same rules” should be adopted.

“Typically we regulate telecoms industries one way, banking and financial services another way, the health sector has its own very complex environment of regulation, and so-on and so-forth. But all of these industries now have to be meeting on the same playing field, they have to play the same game, but that playing field at the moment is very uneven,” he cautioned.

Digital neutrality
Phillips also mooted the need for “digital neutrality”, to reflect the changing nature of competition – and where the value in the chain lies.

“Competition is about not necessarily owning an asset, but maybe it’s about owning data, information, it’s about where you are, what you are spending, what you bought last, what you like to watch, and monetising that,” he said.

“We hear a lot about net neutrality, which is good, because it deals with making sure access to the network is fair. But really what we need to think about is digital neutrality, about the broader perspective so it’s not just access to the networks that is fair, but access to the information that is fair,” Phillips continued.