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Standards & Regulations for Wireless Communication In Aruba & the Caribbean

• Introduction

Hi, I'm Etienne Maduro, I'm 26 and am currently a student at the Technological University of Eindhoven TUe. This weblog is part of an assignment for the course 0EL70 Standards & Regulations for Wireless Communication.

 

I’m from Aruba, an island in the Caribbean that used to be part of the Dutch Antilles but received a sub-independent status in 1986. Aruba is still part of the Dutch Monarchy and Dutch laws still apply. However because of its geographical position it is more connected and influenced by America and namely the US. Eight years ago I moved to Netherlands to follow up on my education. More than two years ago I met my girlfriend, she's from South Korea. So I have many different influences in my life. Just like the regulations and standards it’s all about the interface between multiple situations to make everything function right. 

 

The regulations and standards for wireless communication are supposed to allow users everywhere in the world to be able to use their products easily, safely and responsibly. Just like standards and regulations for everything else they set norms and rules for usage. For instance a user that travels through the world should be able to use his mobile phone everywhere without too much knowledge of the underlying technology. And all that without interfering with other people’s phones, police radio's and all other apparel.

 

The regulations and standards have a lot to do with laws of course. But also with norms, values and ethics. What is considered appropriate, fair and right? In different parts of the world different things are considered to be normal. What is normal for us might be considered totally not done somewhere else. So just like international laws tries to make everything work globally it is up to the regulations and standard institutes to allow users from all over the world to communicate with each other on the same level.

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• Political Structure of Aruba

First a brief history of Aruba:

 

On January 1, 1986 Aruba became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Historically, Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles, a six-island federation which also included Bonaire, Curacao, St, Marten, St. Eustatius and Saba. This island grouping, in turn, formed the Caribbean component of the Dutch Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy with the Queen of Holland having the dual role of head of state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as well as of the country of Holland.

At a Round Table Conference (March 1983), all partners in the Kingdom (Holland, the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles, and the governments of the individual islands) agreed to grant Aruba separate status within the Kingdom. As of January 1, 1986, the Kingdom consists of three partners: Holland, Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (5 islands). Aruba will remain part of the Dutch Kingdom, but will have direct ties with Holland, no longer needing the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles to manage its own affairs.

As a result of this agreement, Aruban affairs, formerly under the jurisdiction of the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles, (aviation, customs, immigration, communications and other internal and external matters) are now handled autonomously by Aruba. The Kingdom retains responsibility for defense and foreign affairs.

Aruba has its own constitution predicated on western democratic principles, with a Governor to form a 7-member Council of Ministers vested with executive powers and headed by a Prime Minister. Judicial powers lie with the Common Courts in Aruba in the Netherlands Antilles, and ultimately with the High Court of Justice in Holland.

It is emphasized that these events do not entail full independence for the island, a step that may be taken only in the very distant future. Most accurately, the new political status can be described as a form of "Commonwealth" with Holland and sister islands, with which Aruba will retain strong economic, cultural, political and defense ties.

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• The Effect of Decolonization in the Caribbean

Historically all the islands in the caribbean region used to be or still are more or less European colonies, this can be noted from the languages still spoken: English, French, Spanish and Dutch. Although most of these islands are neither large or densely populated they have telecommunications infrastructures as advanced as any in the world, especially compared to some South American Countries or developing countries. This is mainly because of their strong service-oriented tourism industries and also in part by the influences of their European ties and close proximity to North America.

 

Most Caribbean countries went through the same process in the telecommunications area, with the exception of the two largest and most populated (but also poorest) countries: Cuba and Haiti. In the beginning, after the decolonization, many of the state owned telco's were bought by Continental Telephone (ConTel, a US company) and Cable & Wireless (C&W, a UK company owning telco's in the UK, Hong Kong and British Caribbean). Many Caribbean governments had already invested billions of tax money to build state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructures and insisted to nationalize these now foreign-owned telco's as a sense of security.

 

In the early 1980's there was a rapidly increasing demand for commercial telephone systems. This while the partly state-owned Caribbean telco monopolies could not satisfy this demand. This led to Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago being the first islands to liberalize. In 1984 they were the first Caribbean nations to establish technical standards and specifications to interconnect its subscriber terminal equipment. By the early 1990's Barbados and Bahamas had followed and at this moment I believe almost all islands have liberalized their markets. With the privatization of the networks it was mostly C&W that profitted because of their familiarity with the networks and policymakers of the former British colonies. Nowadays the two biggest companies that have penetrated in the Caribbean are C&W and Digicel(Ireland).

 

There were many different reasons for privatisation of the state-owned networks. One was that some of the then state-owned telco's invested heavily in extending and  improving of their networks. So much that some Caribbean countries were the first in the world with a completely digital network (although at that time these countries didn't have a large penetration rate making it a smaller accomplishment). Under pressure from international lenders these countries privatised to reduce their debt. This was the case with Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica.

Debt was not the only incentive however, access to state-of-the-art technology was also an important criterion. For the Bahamas, Barbados, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands Antilles it had been a major factor in the privatization debate.

Another factor has been the trend towards trade liberalization and privatization as a prerequisite for obtaining foreign investment capital for other sectors of the economy. This according to GATT(the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), GATS(the General Agreement on Trade in Services) and NAFTA(the North American Free Trade Agreement) discussions.

 

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• Impact of Liberalization of the Market in Aruba

Telecommunications in Aruba started around 1986, before that all international telephone and telegraph communication were conducted through Curacao. Setar, the government-owned telecommunications company was founded and started growing rapidly. Since 1995 Internet services were provided and soon after DSL services were introduced.

 

In 2003 the telecommunications market in Aruba was liberalized. The privatization of the telecommunications market would ensure a further growth in funding and technological development by promoting competition. This way Setar became an incorporated company (with the government as shareholder) and a new service provider was founded, New Millenium Telecom Services. Some law suits arised during the time of liberalisation to settle some arguments between the government and the telco's Setar and NMTS. Mainly to settle issues such as fees and charges to be paid by NMTS for the use of Setar's network. The network that was set up when Setar was still a state-owned company was funded by tax money and thus I guess it felt like there was a need to protect the national investment. The arguments were settled and Aruba had two competing national service providers. Soon after but right before launching commercially NMTS announced a partnership with Digicel, a fast growing Irish company in the Caribbean. NMTS would further trade under the name Digicel. To my knowledge there are currently 3 wireless service providers licensed in Aruba.

 

In July 2003 Digicel launched in Aruba, while already  having launched in 2001 in Jamaica and just having launched in March of 2003 in St. Vincent and St. Lucia. After Aruba Digicel has also been introduced in Grenada, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Anguilla, Bermuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Turks & Caicos, Bonaire, Guadaloupe, Martinique and French Guiana.... Well you can see where I'm going, I don't know too many other islands in the caribbean. And as of June 2006 Digicel is the first overseas partner for Chinese handset manufacturer Konka. Their intentions for sure seem big. 

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• Some Important Organizations in the Caribbean

The following are some important organizations that have the most influence in the Caribbean, either regulatory, private or commercial.

These are mainly the big players in the Caribbean that have to fight it out with each other to make sure everything happens in a fairly fashion.

 

ITU: international Telecommunication Union

 

CTU: Caribbean Telecommunication Union

CANTO: Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organizations

 

loosely related organizations:

CITEL: Inter-American Telecommunication Commission

ACHIET: Asociacion Hispano-Americana de Centros de Invesstigacion y Empresas de Telecomunicacion

OOCUR: Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators

ECTEL: Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority

CARICOM: Caribbean Community and Common Market

 

the ones that are most relavant to us I have explained further.

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• CANTO

The Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organizations, formed in 1985, is an independent forum through which regional telecommunications organisations could exchange information, set a Caribbean telecom agenda and influence regional policy. CANTO members include most of the telecom service providers in the region, both national and international. Originally CANTO was an initiative of seven then state-owned telco's and was encouraged by ITU(International Telecommunication Union). The state-owned telco's acknowledged the fact that, compared to the investments they were making in domestic infrastructures, international companies such as C&W were making much higher returns by operating international calls.

 

In the early 1990's CANTO began to work with the newly formed CTU(Caribbean Telecommunication Union), ITU, CBU(Caribbean Broadcasting Union) and the region's communications ministries to formulate regulatory policy.

 

There is little to no production of sophisticated telecommunication equipment in the Caribbean. The majority of telecommunication equipment were being imported from the US, Canada and Europe(AT&T, Ericsson, Mitel, Northern Telecom, Southwestern Bell among others). Through CANTO various volume discounts were negotiated with these suppliers. By combining analysis of previous purchases with forecasts of individual companies, CANTO can negotiate with aggregate numbers that do not compromise specific buyers. This way CANTO wants to try and work toward joint regional purchasing of equipment. Next a Products and Standards Evaluation Team was created to carry out preliminary feasibility studies that have identified several product lines for which it was felt the technical means and economies exist to suppport regional assembly or manufacture. A CANTO Standards Bureau was created in the mid 1990's as a next step to negotiate between the governments, telco's and current suppliers(both local and transnationals).

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• CTU

The Caribbean Telecommunication Union was established in 1989 as an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to facilitating the development of the regional telecommunications sector.

 

The CTU was set up on the recommendation of the Ministers for Telecommunications to correct:

1. the fragmented policy frame of telecommunications sectors of member countries;

2. the problems of frequency incompatibility between and among member countries;

3. the lack of Caribbean input in major international issues, which disregarded rights and sovereignty of the Caribbean states, thereby denying them opportunity;

4. the absence of coordinating machinery to facilitate an increase in the impact of resources and assistance for Caribbean telecommunications development.

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• CCoE

The Caribbean Centre of Excellence is a cooperation between the CTU, CANTO and the CCAA(Caribbean Central American Action). The CCAA is a non-governmental organization that promotes private sector-led economic development in the Carbbean Basin. The Centre will address the requirements of stakeholders in the information and telecommunications sector for training, technical assistance, market information and statistics, consensus building on regional issues and representation at international fora.

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• Mobile Country Codes vs. Home Network Identification Codes in the Caribbean

One very interesting example of regulation and in some way standardisation in the Caribbean is the use of MCCs and HNIs in the Caribbean.

First some brief definitions:

MCC: Mobile Country Code defined by ITU-T, identifies a country in the mobile world and is used by down stream billing processes to create TAP(Transferable Accounting Procedure) records for inter carrier settlement.

HNI: Home Network Identifier, identifies you as a cell phone user when you are roaming.

 

Liberalisation in Caribbean telecommunications markets has resulted in the entry of new mobile service providers, who in seeking to establish a regional presence, have resorted to using foreign HNIs in the countries in which they operate. This practice has been the subject of much discussion in the region. Basically: government officials and regulators opposed to the use of foreign HNIs and the new operators favoured the practice.

Traditionally MCC/MNC codes have been used to identify a network within a country with a few unique exceptions. Now certain new operators in the Caribbean are now using "foreign" MCC/MNC codes in islands where they offer service. 

Policy makers and regulators have the following concerns:

- Legality: lack of adherence to the ITU recommendation

-Alternatives: there is no valid technical reason to implement foreign HNIs

-Prior disclosure: the operators did not inform or seek approval from the regulators before implementation of the foreign HNIs

-Accounting: the government cannot be sure if all revenues are accounted for (for example for taxation)

-Legal intercept: how will law enforcement agencies intercept calls when foreign codes are being employed?

-Reciprocity: will USA/ Jamaica permit operators to use foreign HNIs in their countries?

-Roaming: the use of foreign codes reduces the time for establishing roaming arrangements. This might be anti-competitive and there might be multiple tariffs for roaming.

 

From the new providers' view it was a question of interpretation of the ITU recommendation.

The use of HNIs had its advantages:

- It facilitated rapid deployment of services

- Seamless networks

- Economies of scale

- Presents a valid business case

 

The situation in Aruba:

The Aruba telecommunications sector is governed by a Telephony & Telegraph act that dates from 1909. They are moving towards new telecommunication legislation and will be liberalising on a phased basis. As a member of the ITU, Aruba adheres to the recommendations and common practices. Operators must comply with the international standards, as well as the guidelines set forth by the Aruba Telecommunications Directorate, which require mobile networks to be identified by the codes given by the director.

Digicel was assigned MCC/MNCs but when an audit of the network was done, it was discovered that Digicel was using the Jamaican MCC making them part of the Jamaican Network. Digicel indicated that to revert to the assigned codes would result in recall of all SIM cards and will impact negatively on their roaming capabilities.

There are now summary proceeding against Digicel to enforce use of MCC and there are appeals before the administrative advice commission. At this time, no final decision has been made in this matter.

 

The MCC/HNI issue was discussed in a workshop organized by the CANTO, CTU and ITU in November 2004 in Trinidad & Tobago. The government officials, regulators, providers and ITU experts all shared their perspectives and a survey was conducted at the end.

 

The result of the survey in a nutshell:

Most participants favoured adherence to the ITU Recommendations but conceded that

these were open to some degree of interpretation. Participants favoured reversion to home

HNI use by Operators already using foreign HNIs and a 2-3 year period of transition to

revert to full conformance. New operators should not be allowed to use foreign HNIs.

 

For a full report and results to the survey refer to (it's very interesting):

http://www.canto.org/doc/use_of_mccs_final_report.pdf

http://www.canto.org/doc/Use_of_mccs_Survey_report.pdf

 

funny note: the majority of the survey responses were received after the deadline.

                   the laidback Caribbean attitude still applies :)

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• Conclusion

Due to decolonization and liberalization we see the same symptoms in most of the telecommunication markets of the Caribbean islands. For this reason having an organisation like CANTO, where the governments, providers, manufacturers and everybody who has anything to do with telecommmunication can join, is a very good initiative to share experiences, knowledge and expertise. Together with the CTU and CCAA they have set up a Caribbean Centre of Excellence, which is a real step forward in the right direction.

 

With all the individual small state-owned telco's in the past the Caribbean didn't have much to do with regulations and standards. But now that the market is growing, going international and being liberalized there is definitely a need for standards and regulations. While the Caribbean as a whole may not have much to do with the setting of standards and the standardisation process itself, the choice of standards used is very important. It is much easier for small companies or countries to form an alliance to share their individual resources. They can have more say, more knowledge and more power. I think it is very advantageous and important that most islands in the caribbean are cooperating together with and organizations such as CANTO and CTU at a relatively early stage for the telecommunication market.

 

Of course working together in a group will always have its disadvantages too. It's more difficult for instance to get everyone thinking in one line. And at the end of the day it's still business, profit is to be made and the competition can be cutthroat. Most companies will always want do what's best for them and that's not always what's best for the group. In the end it will all come down to a simple issue of trust and in a business world where everyone has to be a little selfish to survive it's hard to trust anyone. But however if everyone in the group have approximately the same ideology the benefits of working in a group are definitely larger than the disadvantages.

 

What happened with the MCC/HNI issue between the governments/regulators and the new service providers is a little of the same. The international service providers had an opportunity to have a bit of an edge by using HNI codes, which wasn't exactly against the rules according to the "guidelines" of the ITU. But by figuratively speaking going behind he backs of the regulators and not informing them they created a situation of mistrust with the governments and regulators who might feel screwed over. There will always be a feeling of insecurity when a somewhat larger company from abroad wants to invest in a small nation. Of course they also want to make profit too. As long as it's at the mutual benefit of both the company and the country invested in it can only make the market thrive. As long as both parties play fair that is, and that's why it's good to have organizations such as CANTO, CTU and ITU, they keep it fair.

This is all my opinion, and of course that doesn't mean it's right, let me know what you think...

 

Etienne

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Author: Etienne Maduro

TU Eindhoven

About Me

This is a weblog is part of a course I'm following at the TUe. As described in the title it's about the standards and regulations for wireless communication in Aruba and the Caribbean. Feel free to react or send comments.

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Prof. Smits' Links:

• China Broadband Wireless
• Radio Spectrum Policy
• Regional Radiocommunication Conference 06

My Links:

• Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations
• Caribbean Telecommunications Union
• Interresting Workshop about situation in the Caribbean
• Survey Result from the Workshop
• TIA Article on Liberalization
• Paper on Telecommunication in the Caribbean

other links:
• Aruban GSM Networks
• CIA factbook on Aruban Comm :)
• Planning a Vacation to Aruba?
• Planning a Vacation to Aruba?
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