Convergence in the EU Regulatory Framework
The Government of Singapore has recognized the trend towards ICT industry convergence, but has not, to date, moved as far as the UK to converge its regulatory authorities (see Practice Note on the UK’s OFCOM). The situation in Singapore, as of early 2005, is described in this Practice Note.
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA)
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is a statutory board of the Singapore Government. The IDA was formed in December 1999 from the merger of the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore and the National Computer Board. The Government of Singapore’s intention in forming the IDA was to create a single agency for integrated planning, policy formulation, regulation and industry development in the information technology and telecommunications sectors.
In December 2001, in anticipation of the next phase of convergence between IT, telecommunications and broadcasting, the IDA was transferred from the former Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to the new Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MITA). In addition to the IDA, MITA oversees operation of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority .
The IDA operates under the following legislation:
(a) the Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore Act (Cap 137A); and
(b) the Telecommunications Act (Cap 323) .
The Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore Act (Cap 137A) (the “IDA Act”) sets out the powers, functions and duties of the IDA. Some of the IDA’s main functions and duties are:
(a) To promote the efficiency and international competitiveness of the ICT sector in Singapore
(b) To ensure that telecommunications services are reasonably accessible to all people in Singapore, and are supplied efficiently, economically and at performance standards that meet the social, industrial and commercial needs of Singapore.
(c) To promote and maintain fair and efficient market conduct and effective competition between persons engaged in commercial telecommunications activities in Singapore.
(d) To advise the government on national needs and policies in respect of ICT matters.
(e) To exercise licensing and regulatory functions in respect of telecommunications systems and services in Singapore, including the approval of tariffs, the allocation and use of radio-frequency spectrum, the establishment of equipment standards, and the installation and use of undersea cables and satellite stations.
(f) To promote the use of the Internet and electronic commerce in Singapore, and to establish regulatory frameworks for such purposes.
In discharging its functions and duties under the IDA Act, the IDA is specifically required to have regard to the convergence between broadcasting services and other communications technology services .
The Telecommunications Act (Cap 323) (the “Telecom Act”) defines the regulatory and licensing powers of the IDA in respect of telecommunications systems and services. Some of the IDA’s powers under the Telecom Act are:
(a) To issue licenses for the operation telecommunications systems and the provision of telecommunications services.
(b) To give directions to operators and service providers, and to issue codes of practice and standards of performance.
(c) To impose financial or other penalties where a licensee breaches its license conditions, or the provisions of any code of practice, standard of performance or direction given by the IDA.
Media Development Authority (MDA)
The Media Development Authority (MDA) is also a statutory board of the Singapore Government. The MDA was formed by the merger in January 2003 of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publications Department, and the Singapore Film Commission. The MDA was created in response to Government concerns about the increasing convergence of different media, and the need for a new and consistent approach to regulation and development of the media sector.
The MDA resides under the jurisdiction of MITA, and operates alongside the IDA.
The main legislation applicable to or administered by the MDA is:
(a) the Media Development Authority of Singapore Act 2002 (Cap 172);
(b) the Broadcasting Act (Cap 28);
(c) the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (Cap 206);
(d) the Films Act (Cap 107);
(e) the Undesirable Publications Act (Cap 338); and
(f) the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act (Cap 257).
The Media Development Authority of Singapore Act 2002 (Cap 172) (the “MDA Act”) sets out the powers, functions and duties of the MDA. Some of the MDA’s main functions and duties under the MDA Act are:
(a) To exercise licensing and regulatory functions in respect of media services in Singapore, including the establishment of guidelines and standards relating to the content of media services, and any equipment or facility used in connection with the provision of media services.
(b) To advise and make recommendations to the Government on matters, including regulations, related to media services.
(c) To maintain fair and efficient market conduct and effective competition in the media industries in Singapore or, in the absence of a competitive market, to prevent the abuse of monopoly or market power.
(d) To ensure that media services in Singapore are maintained at a high standard and, in particular, in respect of the quality, balance and range of content.
(e) To encourage and regulate public service broadcasting by licensees under the Broadcasting Act (Cap 28).
(f) To protect against media service content which is against the public interest, or which offends against good taste or decency.
In discharging its functions and duties under the MDA Act, the MDA is specifically empowered, amongst other things:
(a) To design and administer systems for the granting of licenses, permits and approvals.
(b) To assign radio-frequencies and satellite orbital positions, from those allocated to the MDA by the IDA for broadcasting purposes, to broadcasting licensees.
(c) To develop codes of practice relating to content, technical standards or fair market conduct in any media industry, and to monitor compliance with such codes.
The Broadcasting Act defines the regulatory and licensing powers of the MDA in respect of broadcasting services and apparatus in Singapore. Some of the MDA’s main powers under the Broadcasting Act are:
(a) To grant broadcasting licenses and broadcasting apparatus licenses.
(b) To issue Codes of Practice relating to program standards and advertisements.
(c) To issue written directions to broadcasting licensees as necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act, any relevant Code of Practice and any condition of a broadcasting license.
Licensing and Other Regulation
Subject to the availability and allocation of scarce resources such as radio-frequency spectrum, Singapore has maintained an open-ended approach to market entry and related licensing since April 2000.
Facilities and Services
All persons operating or providing telecommunications systems or services in Singapore require a license from the IDA . The IDA has adopted a two-fold licensing approach that differentiates between Facilities-Based Operators (FBOs) and Services-Based Operators (SBOs).
FBOs are operators that deploy any type of telecommunications networks, systems or facilities to offer telecommunications services. FBOs are individually licensed by the IDA. FBO licensees are required to pay license fees, and to comply with interconnection and access obligations as well as minimum quality of service standards set by the IDA.
SBOs are operators who lease telecommunications network elements (i.e. transmission capacity, switching, etc.) from FBO licensees to provide telecommunications services to third parties, or who otherwise resell the telecommunications services of FBOs. SBOs are generally subject to class licenses under a licensing scheme that includes gazetting of the applicable terms and conditions. Anyone who provides services within the scope of an SBO class license is deemed to have agreed to the terms and conditions of the class license. SBOs are required to register with the IDA before providing service.
In addition, all persons operating broadcasting apparatus or providing broadcasting services in Singapore require a license from the MDA, unless exempted by the MDA. Licensable broadcasting services include television, radio and computer online services . Licensable broadcasting apparatus includes any apparatus used for the transmission or reception of any broadcasting service.
Individual licenses are used for many broadcasting services in Singapore. However, the MDA established a regulatory framework permitting the issuance of class licenses to certain providers of broadcasting services through the Broadcasting (Class License) Notification 2001. Included in that notification are Internet access service providers, Internet service resellers, and certain Internet content providers. Subject to a registration requirement, these Internet service and content providers are deemed automatically licensed by the MDA. They must observe and comply with the applicable Class License Conditions and the Internet Code of Practice, which outlines standards intended to protect the public interest. Internet access service providers are required to obtain either an FBO or SBO license from the IDA before registering for the MDA class license.
The IDA is responsible for the management, allocation and use of the radio-frequency spectrum for radio-communications services in Singapore. These services include terrestrial mobile and fixed links, satellite, aeronautical and maritime radio, safety and distress communications, radio-navigation, amateur radio and broadcasting.
Applications for the use of frequencies are directed to the IDA’s Spectrum and Numbering Management Department, which then assesses the requirements of the applicants and advises them of the feasibility of their request. Users also need to apply to the IDA’s Licensing and Operations Department for a radio license to operate radiocommunications equipment, prior to the any assignment of the frequency.
Under the MDA Act, the IDA is required to consult with the MDA and allocate to the MDA specific radio frequencies and satellite orbital positions for broadcasting purposes. The MDA may then assign such frequencies and satellite positions to broadcasting applicants. If a licensee is granted a broadcasting license under the Broadcasting Act and the license includes the right to use a specified frequency or satellite position for the transmission of a broadcasting service, no other license is required in respect of the use of the frequency or satellite position for the purposes permitted by that license. However, in issuing such licenses, the MDA must have regard to the demand for spectrum for services other than broadcasting and any other matters it or the IDA considers appropriate .
Convergence and Regulation
The Government of Singapore has merged its information and communication technology authorities into a single regulator. It has also merged its media authorities into a separate, single regulator. It has not opted to create a converged or unified regulator responsible for the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.
Telecommunications regulatory and licensing matters are handled by the IDA, whereas broadcasting regulation and licenses are the responsibility of the MDA. There are many instances in which these functions overlap. In the case of spectrum, the IDA and the MDA must co-operate to ensure that sufficient spectrum is made available for broadcasting purposes. In the case of Internet services, the IDA and the MDA impose separate license and regulatory requirements on ISPs, who must comply with both sets of requirements.
While the Government of Singapore has maintained separate ICT and media regulators, it has placed them both under a single ministry (MITA). MITA provides a centralized voice for policy development, with the stated goal of anticipating the next phase of convergence between IT, telecommunications and broadcasting services.