Nº 10 2012 > World Conference on International Telecommunications | Special report
New regulations promise better connectivity for all
Eighty-nine countries sign updated treaty on International Telecommunication Regulations
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT‑12), which worked hard to revise the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), ended on 14 December, having welcomed around 1600 delegates from 151 Member States, including some 70 ministers, deputy ministers and ambassadors. A total of 1275 proposals were submitted by Member States. The Regulations were first adopted at the World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference in Melbourne, Australia, in 1988 and have driven phenomenal growth across the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
Of the 144 Member States with the credentials to sign on behalf of their country, 89 signed the treaty (see table). Fifty-five States did not sign either because they did not agree with the document in its current form or because they needed to go back to their capitals for formal agreement or to submit the document to public consultation.
“A clear majority of Member States has already signed the new treaty and these countries represent not just most of the world’s people, but the great majority of the world’s unconnected people. We understand that some Member States need to go to their capitals and constituencies before they can accede to the new ITRs. But we do hope that they will soon come and join the majority by acceding to the treaty, when the time is right, and help usher in a world where opportunities for investment in new infrastructure abound, and where consumers can take advantage of new benefits such as reduced roaming charges,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of ITU, following the signing ceremony.
The new treaty comprises ten articles, covering: Purpose and scope of the Regulations; definitions; international network; international telecommunication services; safety of life and priority of telecommunications; security and robustness of networks; unsolicited bulk electronic communications; charging and accounting; suspension of services; dissemination of information; energy efficiency and e-waste; accessibility; special arrangements; and final provisions.
In annex to these articles, which form the treaty text, are two appendices. Appendix 1 provides general provisions concerning accounting, and Appendix 2 relates to maritime telecommunications.
In addition, WCIT‑12 adopted five new resolutions which are not part of the treaty text. These resolutions cover “Special measures for landlocked developing countries and small-island developing States for access to international optical fibre networks”; “Globally harmonized national number for access to emergency services”; “(Fostering) an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet”; “Periodic review of the International Telecommunication Regulations”; and “International telecommunication service traffic termination and exchange”.
The conference broke new ground in bringing global public attention to the different perspectives that govern modern communications. Paying tribute to all delegations, Dr Touré said the work had been intense. “I appreciate the efforts put in by each and every delegation. The days have been long, and the nights have been even longer. But the dawn has broken on a new day — and a new set of ITRs. And I do not think that we allowed challenges and controversies to divert us from our common goal of bringing the benefits of communications to the 700 million people who still don’t have mobile phone network coverage. And even more importantly to the 4.5 billion people who are not yet online.”
In this context, the treaty calls upon Member States to “create an enabling environment for the implementation of regional telecommunication traffic exchange points, with a view to improving quality, increasing the connectivity and resilience of networks, fostering competition and reducing the costs of international telecommunication interconnections”.
The Regulations will enter into force on 1 January 2015, and will be applied as of that date, consistent with the provisions of Article 54 of the ITU Constitution.
Eighty-nine countries sign updated treaty