Are communications networks or services regulated?

Technology (3rd edition)

Armenia Small Flag Armenia

The Law regulates the public electronic communication networks and services.

For further understanding of regulation it is important to present below the definition given in the Law for the “electronic communication network” and “electronic communication”.

Thus, in accordance with the Law electronic communication network stands for the a transmission system and, if applicable, also switching or routing equipment and other resources, which enable signal transmission by cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic means, including by satellite network, fixed network, mobile land network, and electric power line systems, so that these are used for transmitting signals, regardless of the type of information conveyed. Public electronic communications network stands for an electronic communications network used wholly or mainly for the provision of public electronic communications services.

Electronic communication services are defined as a service which is normally provided for consideration and which consists, in whole or in part, of transmitting, and, if applicable, routing of signals on electronic communications networks, but does not include services providing or exercising editorial control over the content transmitted via electronic communications network․ Public electronic communication services are those of offered to the public or to such classes of end-users with the help of which it becomes, as a matter of fact, directly available to the public.

Dominican Republic Small Flag Dominican Republic

Yes, by the General Telecommunications Law No. 153-98, overseen by the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (hereinafter, “INDOTEL” for its Spanish acronym).

Egypt Small Flag Egypt

Telecommunications networks and telecommunications related services are heavily regulated in Egypt through the Telecommunications Law and its executive regulations as well as the decrees and regulations issued by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority “NTRA”.

Further, programming, software and electronic signatures are regulated by the E-Signature Law and its executive regulations as well as the decrees and regulations issued by ITIDA.

In addition to that, the Press and Media Law has been recently promulgated requesting the issuance of a license from the Supreme Media Council in connection with the establishment and management in Egypt of websites, or the management of offices or branches of websites established abroad. The Press and Media Law provides for a very broad definition of websites which covers any page, website, link, or authorized electronic application, through which a press content, media content or advertisement whether in text, audio, visual, fixed, mobile or multimedia, is issued by a specific name, electronic address and domain, and which is created, hosted or accessed through the International Information Network (Internet). Further, the Press and Media Law provides for a very broad definition of media content to cover any audio, visual, or electronic content broadcasted to the public or a category thereof with signs, images, voices, drawings, or writings, which cannot be deemed as private correspondence, through any digital or wireless telecommunications means or any advanced technologies, or any radio, television, and electronic broadcasting means or other, produced by private or public natural or juristic. In light of the above-mentioned broad definition of websites and media content, the Supreme Media Council considers that the license requirement applies to all websites.

Estonia Small Flag Estonia

See above.

France Small Flag France

These European rules have just undergone a major reform with the adoption of a “European Code for Electronic Communications” (ECEC), which incorporates and adapts the provisions of the previous directives. The code was published on 17 December 2018 as Directive 2018/1972 and must be transposed by the Member States by 21 December 2020.

The current Telecoms Package has been enacted into French law in the frame of the Post and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE). Under the CPCE the installation and operation of networks open to the public and the provision of electronic communication services to the public are free. Network operators and service providers (all of which are designated as ‘operators’) must only file a declaration with the national regulatory authority, the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Electroniques et des Postes (ARCEP). Pursuant to such declaration, they must comply with the telecom regulatory regime. As at 31 December 2018, a total of 2,829 operators were declared.

China Small Flag China

Yes. Under the Telecoms Regulations, all telecoms business activities are classified as either ‘basic telecoms services’ (BTS) or ‘value-added telecoms services’ (VATS). BTS generally consist in providing public network infrastructure, public data transmission and basic voice communications services, while VATS generally consist in telecoms and information services provided through public network infrastructure. The Catalog provides affirmative definitions and specific descriptions of listed categories of PRC telecoms services, which in turn determine which licenses and permits a service provider must obtain from the MIIT in order to provide such defined services.

Israel Small Flag Israel

Communications networks and services in Israel are regulated under the Communications Law. The principal law governing telecommunications in Israel is the Communications Law (Telecommunications and Broadcasting), 1982 (the ‘Communications Law’) and the regulations promulgated thereunder. In addition, the field of wireless communications and the allotment of electromagnetic spectrum in Israel is regulated by the Wireless Telegraphy Ordinance (New Version), 1972 (the ‘Telegraph Ordinance’) and the regulations promulgated thereunder. The Telecommunications Law (section 2), prohibits any person, other than the State of Israel, from providing telecommunications services or performing telecommunications actions without having obtained a license or a permit granted by the Ministry of Communications (MOC), except in the case of certain exemptions which are specified in section 3 of the Communications Law.

Italy Small Flag Italy

See above.

Japan Small Flag Japan


Malaysia Small Flag Malaysia

Communications networks and services in Malaysia are regulated under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (“CMA”) and its subsidiary legislation.

Malta Small Flag Malta

In terms of the Electronic Communications (Regulation) Act (Chapter 399 of the Laws of Malta), undertakings wishing to provide electronic communications are required to notify the Malta Communications Authority for a general authorisation to provide such services.

New Zealand Small Flag New Zealand

See above.

Germany Small Flag Germany

Under German law communications networks and services are regulated by the Telecommunications Act (TKG).[1] The TKG covers activities of sending, transmitting and receiving of signals according to the term “telecommunications services”[2] regulated in section 3 TKG. Service provider is any person who performs telecommunications services wholly or partly for commercial purposes or takes part in these performances of service. However, a licence or authorisation for telecommunication service providers is not required. The operators just have to notify the Federal Network Agency[3] about commencement, modification or termination of the activities in accordance with section 6 TKG.

[1] Telekommunikationsgesetz
[2] Telekommunikationsdienste
[3] Bundesnetzagentur

Indonesia Small Flag Indonesia

Yes, the provision of communication networks and services are mainly regulated under Law No. 36 of 1999 on Telecommunication (“Law 36/1999”) and its implementing regulations.

Pakistan Small Flag Pakistan

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority

The PTA is the regulatory body for the telecom sector in Pakistan and was established under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996. The primary functions of the PTA inter alia include the regulations of establishment, operation and maintenance of telecommunication systems and provision of telecommunication services in Pakistan.

For purposes of the foregoing:

(i) ‘telecommunication system’ includes, any electrical, electro-magnetic electronic, optical or optio-electronic system for the emission, conveyance, switching or reception of any intelligence within, or into, or from, Pakistan, whether or not that intelligence is subjected to rearrangement, computation or any other process in the course of operation of the system, and includes a cable transmission system, a cable television transmission system and terminal equipment; and

(ii) ‘telecommunication service’ includes, a service consisting in the emission, conveyance, switching or reception of any intelligence within, or into, or from, Pakistan by any electrical, electro-magnetic, electronic, optical or optio-electronic system, whether or not the intelligence is subjected to rearrangement, computation or any other process in the course of the service.

PTA is also responsible for dealing with applications relating to the use of radio-spectrum frequency through its Frequency Allocation Board (“FAB”), which has the exclusive authority to allocate and assign portions of the radio frequency spectrum to the Government, providers of telecommunication services and telecommunication systems, radio and television broadcasting operations, public and private wireless operators, and others.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority

PEMRA is responsible for facilitating and regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services in Pakistan established for the purpose of international, national, provincial, district and local or special target audiences. PEMRA regulates the distribution of foreign and local TV and radio channels in Pakistan.

For purposes of the foregoing:

(i) ‘broadcast media’ includes, such media which originate and propagate broadcast and pre-recorded signals by terrestrial means or through satellite for radio or television and includes teleporting, provision of access to broadcast signals by channel providers and such other forms of broadcast media as the Authority may, with the approval of the Federal Government; and

(ii) ‘distribution services’ includes, a service which receives broadcast and pre-recorded signals from different channels and distributes them to subscribers through cable, wireless or satellite options and includes Cable TV, LMDS, MMDS, DTH and such other similar technologies.

Romania Small Flag Romania

Yes. The main legal instrument governing communication networks and services is the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2011 on electronic communications (“GEO 111/2011”), which transposes the main EU provisions in the field of electronic communications.

The communications regulator, namely the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications ("ANCOM”) issues decisions regulating specific aspects pertaining to the communications field.

South Korea Small Flag South Korea

Yes. Under the current TBA, which was amended in 2018, telecommunications services are divided into two categories: (i) basic telecommunications services, and (ii) value-added telecommunications services.

Basic telecommunications services are telecommunications services for (i) transmitting or receiving voice, data, and images without any change in the form or details thereof, and (ii) leasing telecommunications facilities (e.g., private lines) for the use of transmission or reception of voice, data, and images. Some of the basic telecommunications services include landline and mobile phone services, fax services, and broadband services.

Value-added telecommunications services are any telecommunications services other than basic telecommunications services, and include all information/data services provided over any telecommunications (including broadband) networks.

Spain Small Flag Spain

Yes. Act 9/2014, of 9 May, on Telecommunications (hereinafter, "Spanish Telecommunications Act"), covers the provision of electronic communication networks ("ECN"), as well as the provision of electronic communication services ("ECS"). Certain additional requirements apply to providers of publicly available telephone services ("PATS"), which are a sub-set within ECS. PATS is a service made available to members of the public for making and receiving national or international calls through a number in a national or international telephone numbering plan.

Also, it is important to highlight that on December of 2018, the European Union adopted the Directive (EU) 2018/1972, establishing the European Electronic Communications Code (hereinafter "the EECC Directive"). In some aspects, the EECC Directive is a recast text of the previous directives establishing the regulatory framework within the EU in the field of the electronic communications, although it also addresses changes such as 5G and spectrum, a broadened scope of application, access regulation, reinforces end-users rights, etc. Although the EECC Directive is already in force, Member States have a transposition period until 21 December 2020 to adopt the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with such directive.

Sweden Small Flag Sweden

Communication networks and services are mainly regulated in the Electronic Communications Act (Sw. Lag om elektronisk kommunikation) and the GDPR. The Radio and TV Act (Sw. Radio- och tv-lag) and the Radio Equipment Act (Sw. Radioutrustningslag) also contain relevant legislation.

Taiwan Small Flag Taiwan

Yes, they are regulated. The Telecommunications Act (the “TA”) has been the main statute governing the traditional telecommunications industry since 1958. In response to the innovation of the communications industry, such as the development of 5G technology, a new statute, the Telecommunications Management Act (the “TMA”), was promulgated in June 2019, which will become effective in around 12 months and there will be a three-year transition period following the effective date. TMA will replace the TA after the transition period expires.

Turkey Small Flag Turkey

Yes. Electronic Communications Law regulates electronic communication services, as further explained below.

United States Small Flag United States

The term “telecommunications service” is defined by the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") to mean the offering of telecommunications – i.e., the transmission of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received – for a fee directly to the public, or to such classes of users as to be effectively available directly to the public. International common carriers are required to obtain FCC authorization. In addition, most states, including California, require intrastate domestic common carriers to obtain a state authorization through public utility commissions (“PUCs”).

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is the primary law applicable to telecommunication services, including telephony, radio, broadcast and, to a limited extent, Internet services. The Act regulates telecommunication carriers' interconnection obligations, universal service obligations, broadcast spectrum and ownership provisions, cable services and restrictions related to obscenity and violence in programming. The Act had also applied to Internet services under the so called "net neutrality" rules, but recently the FCC overruled its prior finding that Internet services were telecommunication services regulated under the Act, and has rolled back associated net-neutrality regulations. At the state level, PUC’s have limited overlapping jurisdiction with the FCC, and can set rates for smaller rural telecom providers and establish franchises for cable service.

United Kingdom Small Flag United Kingdom

Yes, communications networks and services are regulated. However, most providers of communications networks and services do not require a licence or specific authorisation to operate; rather, they have 'general authorisation', meaning that they can operate provided they comply with a set of general rules which are largely set out in the General Conditions of Entitlement (which are established under section 45 of the Communications Act 2003).

The exceptions to the principle of general authorisation include:

  • networks or services using radio spectrum (except where exempted by the government);
  • mobile operators wanting, for wireless telegraphy, to (i) establish and use base stations, or (ii) install or use apparatus;
  • satellite operators;
  • multiplex operators; and
  • certain premium rate services regulated by the Phone-paid Services Authority.

The communications services and networks which are in scope for the purposes of being regulated are:

  • 'electronic communication networks' - i.e. the system (and its associated apparatus, equipment, software and stored data) which is used to transmit signals; and
  • 'electronic communication services' - i.e. the conveying of signals over the electronic communication network.

In the absence of an agreement between the EU and the UK, from the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, providers of electronic communications networks and/or services established in the UK will no longer benefit from the general authorisation regime within the European Union. As such, the remaining EU Member States may introduce additional authorisation requirements on providers established in the UK.

A UK withdrawal will mean that the regulatory regime will cease to be applicable in the UK. However, as the framework has already been transposed into UK law through national legislation, it is unlikely to have a significant immediate effect. However, the UK government will remove from the current UK legislation provisions referring to EU institutions and processes that will no longer be applicable. Ofcom will no longer be required to notify certain proposed measures to the European Commission prior to their implementation and will no longer need to comply with the Commission's Recommendations on non-discrimination obligations and costing methodologies for network access.

Australia Small Flag Australia

There are two key pieces of legislation which regulate communications networks and associated matters in Australia, the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) (Telecommunications Act) and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (Cth) (Radiocommunications Act).

The Telecommunications Act regulates the provision of telecommunications services in Australia. The owner of a network unit used to supply carriage services to the public (a carrier) must hold a carrier licence and comply with the conditions attached to that licence (or alternatively ensure another licensed carrier takes on those carrier obligations pursuant to a Nominated Carrier Declaration). An organisation which uses but does not own a network unit (a carriage service provider) is not required to hold a licence. Instead, a carriage service provider is required to comply with a range of obligations set out in Schedule 2 of the Telecommunications Act.

A key objective of the Telecommunications Act is to encourage industry self-regulation. The Communications Alliance Ltd (CA) is an industry owned and operated company formed to implement and manage self-regulation. The CA drafts industry codes and equipment standards which are then registered and enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The ACMA itself also makes technical standards for specified items of telecommunications customer equipment, together with Cabling Provider Rules.

The Radiocommunications Act regulates the radiofrequency spectrum in Australia. Access to the radiofrequency spectrum is facilitated through licensing. There are three forms of licences available:

(a) apparatus licences, which regulate the operation of large scale radiocommunications equipment. Apparatus licences generally apply to equipment used by stations operating in Outpost, Amateur, Broadcasting, Maritime, Aircraft and Land Mobile services. The operation of equipment under such licences involves the payment of licence fees;

(b) class licences, which are open, standing authorities allowing anyone to operate particular radiocommunications equipment within the conditions of the licence. No applications are necessary and no fees are payable. Class licences regulate low power devices such as individual radios, mobile phones, cordless phones and garage door remotes; and

(c) spectrum licences, which are a tradeable and technology neutral spectrum access right for a fixed, non-renewable term. These licences authorise the use of spectrum space, allowing a licensee to deploy any device from the spectrum space which is compatible with the licence conditions.

The Radiocommunications Act also extends the traditional concept of radiocommunications to include radio transmission and transmitters, astronomical and meteorological observations, and the operation of lighthouses, lightships, beacons and buoys.

Updated: August 27, 2019