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ECTEL Director Outlines Challenges to Telecommunications Regulators

Quincy Prentice, Director of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration and a Director at the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), was speaking on ZIZ’s “Working for You”, when he outlined the challenges that changes in technology and consumer behaviour are having on the telecommunications industry.

He pointed out that new disruptive technologies have enabled new and disruptive companies to change the landscape of Telecommunications and Television.

 

Increased Use of Apps

Prentice said, “Over the last five years if you look at the actual utilisation of the various types of services you would have noticed that there’s been a marked shift from what’s considered traditional telecommunications services, to what are considered IP based or Internet Protocol based services or what are known as Over The Top services. These services are usually apps on your smartphone such as WhatsApp, Skype and Magic Jack. In multimedia, you would have IP set top boxes such as Roku and Avov. In instant messaging, apps such as Viber and WhatsApp which have taken the place of traditional text messaging.”

 

Changes in TV Viewing Habits

He continued, “You also have Video on Demand services such as Netflix and Hulu that are taking the place of traditional cable TV. So as you can see there is a gradual shift from the traditional service that would have been provided by existing telecommunications companies to a lot of services that are IP based, or in layman’s terms they are basically based on the Internet.”

 

Threat to Tax Revenue

The director went on to explain the impact that these changes would have for governments and telecommunications regulators in the region and beyond.

“What does that mean for us? It means that the number of traditional companies that would have essentially grown and built their business models on traditional services are now having to evolve as the consumer changes their behaviour. As a regulator you also have to evolve, governments will also have to evolve. Because, if it affects the service providers who are hiring persons who would pay taxes and were responsible for paying licensing fees it will affect you (government) eventually.”

Prentice was part of a panel discussion featuring St. Kitts and Nevis National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC), Which sought to highlight proposed changes to the Electronic Communications Bill being proposed for the ECTEL member states and why changes were necessary.