Are communications networks or services regulated? If so what activities are covered and what licences or authorisations are required?

Technology (second edition)

Switzerland Small Flag Switzerland

Communications networks and services are regulated on the federal level, with the main source of law being the Federal Act on Telecommunications of 30 April 1997, as amended (TCA). The TCA governs any transmission of information by means of telecommunications techniques, except for television and radio program services. Further sources of law include the Federal Ordinance on Telecommunications Services of 9 March 2007, as amended (OTS), and the Federal Ordinance on Telecommunications Installations of 25 November 2015, as amended (TIO). As regards electronic communications equipment, Swiss requirements are largely in line with international and particularly European standards. The Federal Council can adopt technical regulations on telecommunications installations, particularly basic technical requirements for telecommunications, evaluation, certification or declaration of conformity. OFCOM regularly designates technical standards. Compliance with these standards fulfils the basic requirements set out by the Federal Council. The standards are further explained in the TIO and the corresponding ordinance by OFCOM.

The telecommunications law framework applies to telecommunication service providers (TSPs), which are providers of services qualifying as telecommunication services. The TCA defines TSPs as services transmitting information for third parties using telecommunications techniques, which include the sending or receiving of information by wire, cable or radio using electrical, magnetic, optical or other electromagnetic signals.

There are two regulatory agencies in the telecommunications sector: the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) and the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) (see Question 2 below). Fixed line and mobile telephony/satellite services are regulated by the TCA and its implementing ordinances. As regards fixed line services, no license is required. Rather, TSPs must (only) notify OFCOM of the intention to operate electronic communications networks or provide respective services. However, ComCom awards one or more universal service licenses to TSPs to ensure that universal service is guaranteed for the whole population of Switzerland in all parts of the country. TSPs offering mobile telephony and satellite services require a license as they make use of the radio frequency system. Generally, ComCom grants these licenses following an open invitation to tender.. ComCom is currently preparing the allocation of new mobile radio frequencies in the second half of 2018. These frequencies can be used as of 2019. Providers of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services remain unregulated if they provide online services only, without transmitting data using telecommunications techniques. If the provider qualifies as a TSP (e.g. as a VoIP customer can also be reached by way of a fixed line telephone number as part of the public switched telephone network), the TCA applies. However, ComCom does not require such VoIP providers to fulfil all obligations the TCA imposes on regular TSPs; for example, they are under no duty to enable free carrier pre-selection (since there is no close link that needs to be broken between a network and a service operator) or the identification of the caller’s location in the case of emergency calls (which would be technically difficult to establish).

China Small Flag China

In China, the communications networks and services are highly regulated. According to the Telecommunication Regulation, the state divides all telecommunications services into two categories, i.e. Basic Telecommunications Services (BTS) and Value-Added Telecommunications Services (VATS). BTS essentially refers to the provision of infrastructure facilities and basic voice and data transmissions, both domestically and internationally. VATS refers to the provision of specialised services via the basic infrastructure facilities. China adopts a strict licensing system for the telecoms industry. Telecoms operators are required to obtain a licence to engage in either BTS or VATS. VATS license further includes the licenses for Internet Content Provider (ICP), Internet Service Provider (ISP), Call Centre, Internet Data Centre (IDC) and etc.

Regarding the communications networks, the construction of public telecommunications networks and dedicated telecommunications networks are planned and regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Updated: July 13, 2018