Reducing the Administrative Burden in Licensing

This Practice Note is an excerpt from Regulatory Trends for Adapting Licensing Frameworks to a Converged Environment (Geneva: International Telecommunications Union, 2007), prepared by Telecommunications Management Group, Inc..  This document was prepared as a contribution to ITU-D Study Group 1 Question 10 -2/1 on Regulation for licensing and authorization of converging services.


Regulatory Trends for Adapting Licensing Frameworks to a Converged Environment


3.  Reduction and elimination of administrative and formal requirements for obtaining licences

As previously explained, the second trend followed for adapting licensing regimes to convergence consists of the reduction or elimination of the formal and administrative requirements for the provision of services.  This trend follows various stages, from enhancing the scope of general authorisations or implementing a notification or registration system (that replaces the process of granting licences or general authorisations, making the process for obtaining licences simpler and, in some cases, automatic), to the deregulation of services (eliminating the requirement of obtaining a prior licence or concession).  Each of these stages has the following characteristics.


Individual licences include the specific conditions of the service, specifying the rights and obligations of the licensed service.  In addition, each individual licence is approved on a case by case basis for a particular service and licensee.


On the other hand, general authorisations establish a general system of rights and obligations that applies to all the operators by means of the same authorisation, and the process of awarding them is more straightforward, not requiring an exhaustive examination of the request as in the case of the individual licence. 


The registration system implies a step beyond the authorisation, where general service conditions are applied to operators that only require the registration of their request to provide the service.  The analysis and approval of the operator’s request is minimised to almost a mere formality. 


Finally, notification is the last step prior to deregulation of the service.  In this stage, an operator does not even have to wait for the administrative agency’s approval to provide service, being free to provide the service as soon as the notification has been filed.  The service terms and conditions are also of general application. 


As detailed above, the majority of the simplification and unified licence systems limit the individual licence to specific services often including use of spectrum, and expand the services that are granted by means of a general authorisation.  In some cases, as in Malaysia and Singapore, some services just require a notification. 


In other countries, such as Japan and the EU member states, a complete registration and notification regime has been established for the provision of services.  This excludes, however, the use of spectrum that generally requires a licence.


In this sense, in Japan, only those operators that roll out networks of a certain size and scale will be subject to a prior registration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The remaining service providers are subject to a simple notification requirement.[1] However, the use of the spectrum requires obtaining a radio station licence.[2]


In the European Union, the provision of electronic communications services as well as the deployment or operation of networks is subject to a notification to the corresponding national regulation authority.  And as in Japan, those service providers that require the use of spectrum generally should obtain an individual licence.[3]  


Finally, there are countries that have effectively eliminated authorisations as well as notifications and registrations for the provision of certain services, arguing that such services are beyond the regulator’s scope of jurisdiction or, merely, based on an explicit decision of the regulator exercising its discretion not to regulate a specific service.  In general, this is the approach followed in the United States with regard to Internet access, which has been classified by the FCC as an information service not regulated under the Communications Act, with the purpose of promoting the continuous development of the Internet.[4] 

[1] Articles 9 and 16 of the Telecommunications Law (Law No. 86 of December of 1984) amended by the Law No. 125 of June 24, 2003), available at:

[2] Article 4 of the Radio Law (Law No. 131 of May 2, 1950). The procedure for obtaining such licences is available at

[3] Articles 3 and 5 of Directive 2002/20/CE of March 7, 2002, on network and electronic communications services authorisation (Authorisation Directive), available at 

[4] 47 U.S.C. § 230 (b).  Also see, with regards to cable modem and wireline broadband services: (i) In Re Inquiry Concerning High-Speed Access to the Internet Over Cable and Other Facilities and Internet Over Cable Declaratory, and Appropriate Regulatory Treatment for Broadband Access to the Internet Over Cable Facilities, and Appropriate Framework for Broadband Access to the Internet Over Cable Facilities, Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), GN Docket No. 00-185, and CS Docket No. 02-52 (FCC released March 15, 2002); and (ii) In Re Appropriate Framework for Broadband Access to the Internet Over Wireline Facilities; Universal Service Obligations of Broadband Providers; and associated dockets, Report and Order and NPRM, CC Docket No. 02-33, CC Docket No. 01-337 et al. (FCC released September 23, 2005).

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