Spectrum Management Task Force Meeting
5th February 2023
Montego Bay, Jamaica
The Honourable Dr. Norman Dunn, State Minister, Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Government of Jamaica
Professor Lloyd George Waller, Executive Director, Global Tourism Resilience, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus
Board of Directors of the Spectrum Management Authority, Jamaica
Mr. Alvin Augustin, Chair of Spectrum Management Task Force
Dr. Maria Myers- Hamilton, Vice Chair of the Spectrum Management Task Force and Executive Director of Spectrum Management Authority, Jamaica
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me commence my brief remarks with sincere appreciation to our partner, the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus for facilitation of the first of four meetings of the Spectrum Management Task Force for 2023.
Of course, the Jamaica Spectrum Management Authority, Dr. Myers-Hamilton and her very capable team, must receive our heartfelt appreciation as well for the hard work that has been put in, ever since the idea was tabled at the meeting of the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission’s 40th Permanent Consultative Committee – PCC.II meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago last November. It really is a pleasure to work with you and your team, Maria.
There are many others to acknowledge of course, including and perhaps most importantly the hardworking members of the SMTF, Chair (Alvin Augustin of ECTEL), our sponsors and presenters, my Deputy Mr. Cassimire who coordinates the work of the task force at the Secretariat, and other members of staff who provide support in one way or another, including Francola John, who has been working to ensure that the CTU is actively involved in the Network of Women for WRC23 initiatives.
I am also very honoured to have the presence of the Hon. Dr. Norman Dunn
State Minister, Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Government of Jamaica here to address us on behalf of the Government of Jamaica. And we look forward to hearing from him shortly.
Ladies and gentlemen, the beautiful, relaxed and chilled surroundings of Montego Bay notwithstanding, we are here for a very serious task and at an opportune time. You are well aware of the vital role of wireless communications (enabled by spectrum use) in broadband development and as a key enabler of CARICOM’s vision for a Single ICT Space and as a fundamental component of our efforts to drive our social and economic development through digital transformation.
The work of the SMTF focusses largely on the issue of spectrum and how we can optimise its use, derive the highest social and economic value, and promote harmonisaiton of the related policies that impact its pricing, allocation, minimisation of cross border interference and help us to switch to digital broadcasting and the regulation of “white spaces”.
This year is particularly important as the Caribbean seeks to prepare for the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC23) to be hosted between November and December in the United Arab Emirates. Not only do we want to ensure regional representation in terms of our participation, but we want to ensure that our positions are reflected in the resolutions that will be agreed upon in the decisions of WRC23. This will require a sound understanding of the issues at a technical level, and their implications for the regional ICT industry and ultimately for the citizens of the Caribbean.
The CTU is here to help in this regard. That is why we were established, that is why we exist! 2022 was a busy year for us with the hosting of the ITU World Telecommunications Standards Assembly, the World Telecommunications Development Conference and the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference at which the leadership of the ITU was elected, a strategic plan was adopted to guide the work of the ITU Council, and important resolutions were adopted on a broad range of issues. We were pleased to see the active and unprecedented participation of the Caribbean, where in fact we were able, all be it unsuccessfully, to put forward a candidate for the Director of the BDT. Nevertheless we are pleased that The Bahamas was elected to Council for a 2nd term.
The Caribbean Delegation to ITU-PP 22 was much like we have here today, governments, telecommunication regulators, operating companies and other industry stakeholders. This is the collaboration that we desperately need if we are to collectively agree on standards and policies to take the region forward.
Other meetings of the Task Force are scheduled for 2023 and our web site ctu.int is where you will find indicative dates, including perhaps the last meeting to be held at the CTU ICT Week in final preparation for WRC23 where our policymakers will be able to benefit from our collective recommendations.
Issues and Importance
The global system that facilitates our day-to-day communications and drives our basic activities in this increasingly connected world, is a complex one from a technical, social and geo-political perspective.
New standards to govern International Mobile Telecommunications are needed as we move inevitably towards 5G while at the same time face increased demand for WiFi services to support consumer devices for applications from gaming, the metaverse and smart cities. We will hear over the course of this meeting for example, the importance of Unlicensed Access to the 6 GHz Band in Caribbean Countries. This is an issue we raised informally with Director ITU, Radio Communications Bureau at WTDC 2022, and discussed not just whether a regional position was needed but also, how soon that decision needed to be made, given the availability of WiFi 6 devices already on the market. I am sure our friends at Meta and the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (and others) are keen on sharing a perspective on this issue.
We are also keen on hearing in greater detail about Jamaica’s experience with their Digital Broadcasting Switchover in 2022 which will provide us with valuable lessons learned as we take this very important step in our respective jurisdictions.
Of great importance also is or us to have a clear picture of the Status of CITEL Inter-American Proposals for WRC-23 and for us to consolidate our support for those that are critical to our own developments here in the Caribbean. At the 2nd ITU Regional Workshop held from November 29th to December 1st last year CITEL tabled a number of issues impacting our region, the Americas, that were the subject of various working groups including working groups on Mobile, Fixed and Broadcasting, Radiolocation, Maritime and Aeronautical, Science Services, Satellite Services, General Regulatory, Future Work and Others. We have to determine what is most important for us within this context and it is important that we do so within this mechanism that we have here today. The next relevant CITEL PCC II meeting is carded for Mexico, in May. I know all too well, the human and financial resource challenges with respect to the Caribbean’s full participation but when we consider the bigger picture, we really have no choice but to be at the table and to ensure our meaningful participation and input, armed with knowledge and experience, confident that our voices are as significant as any others.
The CTU will continue to drive the implementation of the CARICOM Single ICT Space in fulfilment of the decision of CARICOM Heads of Government and as embodied in the Roadmap of 2017. Regional harmonization is at the heart of this roadmap. Harmonization of policies, legislation and regulation, our spectrum fee structures, frequency allocation tables – taking guidance and ensuring compliance with international standards – ensuring that radio frequencies are used efficiently from a technical and economic standpoint.
The ITU provides us with some principles that should guide us as we work at the regional and national level. Chief among them is that spectrum should be allocated to the highest value use or uses to ensure maximum benefits to society are realized; and regulators and spectrum managers need to promote both regulatory certainty and flexibility in how spectrum is used.
This latter principle is one that was raised in our efforts in 2022 to eliminate roaming charges within the CARICOM Single ICT Space. While we are ecstatic with the fact that we were able to obtain in some cases, as much as 97% reduction in roaming charges based on a new roaming regime, implemented differently by the major operators, our focus remains on complete elimination.
The Honourable Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley put it this way, our citizens should roam like they are at home when travelling within CARICOM because the reality is that they ARE at home. The push-back that we received from the operators during this process was their concern with respect to the disparities in national markets within CARICOM with respect to the regulation of the industry. Hence, we will continue to push for harmonization and, if we can ever get there, a single regulatory framework on which we can all agree. I should also mention, with respect to this issue that the CTU will be facilitating a meeting between regional telecoms operators and Big tech-OTT companies within the next week to consider implications for future ICT infrastructure investment and transition to next generation technologies within the Caribbean. I am pleased that these issues are receiving the attention of some of our regional regulators, such as the Telecoms Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, which has issued a white paper on Net Neutrality and OTT services in Trinidad and Tobago.
In closing, I started by thanking a range of stakeholders and I will end by reiterating my sincere appreciation to all of you again. The SMTF has been running since 2006 and we look forward to the sharing of your invaluable experience and knowledge with the rest of your colleagues as we take the region forward collectively!
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you!