BORDERLESS CHATS AND THE REGULATORY MARKET

 

THE 2 IPs: Internet Protocol and Intellectual Property –

Lets talk Mobile , Internet and Connected Devices as we explore borderless chats. And yes: Who owns your chats and who gets regulated? And: Advertisers – are we thinking of them in the regulatory landscape.

No more pigeons as carriers, but mobile messaging apps like Facebook’s and their instant messaging services and others like Whats App, WeChat, Snapchat, Viber, Line, Kakao Talk and Tencent are on the radar. They have fast outpaced mobile carriers SMS.

As we chat, we connect and we buy…. that is what advertisers want. More so, it is what companies want – both virtual and real time companies. Entrepreneurial fervour is driving more and more advancement and technology is aiding this spiral. Technology is also changing innovation in itself. Technology is allowing more and more communication and interactivity and inventions on scales small and large. Technology combined with creativity is driving innovation as business and the operations of the world are being digitised.

Mobile messaging carriers pay hefty licence fees but internet messaging applications are largely unregulated – Is this the new war – who pays and who is regulated? But should that be the war – is the question rather: with connectivity , access and communication are enhanced and the issue is one for greater connectivity and Internet access. The internet is a powerful force – an as the UN Broadband Commission spotlight: The Internet is Evolving from Connected Things to Connected Everything.

It is access and connectivity that need to be on the radar not asymmetric regulation, as mobile makes money and dual regulation discussions aid not abet minimal mobile fee discussions.

Mobile and Internet based messenger apps those that access mobile with internet and those that do not – are a reality in as much as Facebook’s internet.org is offering an alternative attempt to equalise digital access. So, Internet Protocol – IP networks are now connecting billions of physical devices, while this accelerating volume of data is driven by four major trends:

IP is fast becoming the common

language for most data

communication, especially

proprietary industrial networks.

Billions more people, things,

places, processes and devices

will come online over the next five

years.

Existing physically stored

information is being digitized

in order to record and share

previously analogue material. For

example, the digital share of the

world’s stored information has

increased from 25% to over 98%

over the last decade38.

The introduction of Internet

Protocol version 6 (IPv6) now

removes the technical limit on the

number of devices connected to

the Internet, allowing for trillions of

trillions (i.e. 1038) of devices. – UN BROADBAND COMMISSION 2014

Mobile Internet commerce has got advertisers in a digital frenzy vying for virtual mobile users as much as getting them to part with their monies. According the recent UN Broadband Commission Report 2014 Report , the ITU predicts that the number of networked devices could reach 25 billion by 2020.

Now that is a lot of networked devices. Much more than simply mobile connectivity and IP ( Internet Protocol) trillion connectivity has the potential to transform to trillions in capital and ROI as connectivity of everything. That is the digital enabler.

The debate is on: Mobile operators are regulated. Internet service based messaging whether on mobile or otherwise are not. That is the digital revolution making inroads into what was traditionally mobile revenue. Internet service based messaging has revolutionised affordable communications. Competition is good So, lets leave this unregulated. It is a communications enabler especially in countries where mobile and telephony communications are expensive and digital access uneven. Mobile needs to up its game on affordable communications. More instant messaging applications offer a sales incentive for smart mobile purchases.

Advertisers in terms of specific communications regulatory fees are not regulated. They use infrastructure bandwidth and vicariously user’s data bandwidth . Yes they pay – but to whom and that is what should be borne in mind. Should they be? They negotiate commercial agreements and ad funded revenue model to maximise their revenue. So, why not regulate them. Yes, we have regulations and in country standards. That is not the point, the global advertisers leverage revenue as much the chats are borderless. So, lets bring them in the financial regulatory model too.

Virtual mobile messaging systems in the digital world are on the path to changing intellectual property rules. But what are the new rules in play? Are we asking the right question and to whom?

So, who owns your chats? You do, its your IP – Intellectual Property ( product of the intellect – your words, your phrases, your rhymes) but always check the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy including for escape clauses. Be mindful of jurisdiction clauses as litigation in a foreign country is expensive and sever location founds jurisdiction.

And IP – Internet Protocol and its processing power is enabling those chats to be as connected as they are borderless.

Happy chatting.

Ayesha Dawood

Published in Business Day Business Law and Tax Review February 2016

Inequality of digital access must be overcome

DIGITAL AFRICA : A networked and democratic Africa is about Digitising countries

Mobility and Interactivity are becoming entrenched throughout the African continent

 

The migration to digital devices brings about fundamental changes in communication, connecting people to each other and to sources of information in a manner that deeply affects society. We connect and interact instantly through short messages and we hold video conferences with people around the world without any participant leaving her home/office. Text books in classrooms are being discarded as children clamber into the online world which opens the doors to education, gaming, video-on-demand, streaming, shopping and banking, telemedicine – and a dark underworld of child abuse.

 

Borders are falling as e-commerce writes new rules, and hacking and security are multi-million dollar enterprises in the developed and developing world. Mobility and interactivity of communications devices are moulding new lifestyles and businesses.

 

Within this context, the continued protection of free speech and privacy in the online world appear to co-exist precariously as governments look to blocking content distribution and communications networks. Both free speech and privacy are essential rights in democracies, more so among the developing and under-developed nations.

 

In Africa, the digitization of communications and the migration to mobile devices assist communities especially rural communities and who would otherwise be isolated. Mobility and interactivity are becoming entrenched throughout the continent. The question is: at what cost?

 

The model throughout most of Africa is for governments to license spectrum to mobile operators whose objective is to make profit. As they roll out their networks and as device manufacturers bring new products to market, the question is whether the fundamental structural inequities are in any way altered for the benefit of the majority of economically disadvantaged people.

 

Apart from the ability to communicate and access small amounts of information through mobile devices, affordability determines the level of access to the mobile network.

 

A related issue is whether a model licensing may be structured so that economically disadvantaged people may benefit.

 

In television the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting makes the point forcefully. Within digitization in television, much spectrum is freed up and a dual national benefit takes effect.

 

  1. The first advantage of the freeing up of spectrum is that new mobile operators may be licensed. Of importance, is the licensing model that will serve to entrench a diversity of operators who must meet roll out and other socially useful obligations if they are to keep their licences.
  2. The second advantage is that with digitisation many more television owners may be licensed. Licensing of a diversity of owners with obligations to keep open the airwaves for a diversity of voices and different communities have implications for free speech.

 

Providing access to communications networks and investments in the roll out-out of these networks into under-developed areas as well as models of spectrum licensing have the potential to fundamentally alter the nature of society.

 

The November ITU 2014, Measuring the Information Society Report spotlights the concept of ICT as a development enabler in correctly stating that  “the recognition that ICTs can be a development enabler, if applied and used appropriately, is critical to countries that are moving towards information or knowledge-based societies, and is central to the ICT  Developemement Index’s conceptual framework.

 

Getting digitized is a democratic enabler. That is a corollary to development enablement. How this may be possible through digitisation is what Africa and other least connected countries and regions should be focusing on.

 

Digital business models make business sense and market opportunities for licences, infrastructure, content and access enables democracy and development as well as access to capital markets and trade. Transformative business models are a significant part of the digital revolution.

 

So, lets move Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia Pacific out of the inequality conundrum by shining the spotlight on digital networks and inviting competition on more operators, broadcast and internet networks. In the process lets aim for universalising broadband,making it affordable and connecting homes and people online. Digitisation may just be the regenerative tool.

 

Published in Business Day,  Business Law and Tax Review, March 2015.

Mobile broadband is waiting for the release of digital dividend

Mobile broadband is the wave of the future. In Africa the lack of cable infrastructure continues to inhibit connectivity, often affecting development. But the mobile smartphone is changing the way people are communicating and solving the problem of rolling out cable networks into the rural and remote areas.

According to the 2014 International Telecommunications Union Broadband Commission report ­­­­­­­­­­­­­“there will be 630 million mobile subscriptions in Africa by the end of 2014, 27% of which will be broadband”.

The report goes further and states that “Africa is an archetypal example where next-generation broadband and cloud-based ICT services have been gaining momentum steadily. All these digital innovations are empowered by Intellectual Property, which plays a central role in the development of broadband infrastructures”.

Through mobile phones the gap between the connected and the unconnected is being bridged every day. The possibility of broadband access to the majority grows stronger each year. Following the rest of the world, mobility in Africa is the principal means of communication. However, unlike the rest of the world, Africa, and South Africa in particular, face enormous challenges in rolling out mobile broadband.

In South Africa the continuing and abysmal broadband policy misadventure hamstrings connectivity and broadband opportunities. One of the key components of a broadband policy must include the framework for the management of the release of the digital dividend which will create a whole new world of broadband communication possibilities.

The digital dividend is the spectrum that will become available after the migration of broadcast signals from analogue to digital television. From about 2005, South Africans have been promised a new and better television signal. The tired excuses for the failure of digital television migration is not only frustrating but also delays the roll-out of true mobile broadband which can only happen when the spectrum formerly used by TV is made available for mobile communication.

And when will the digital dividend happen? It’s anyone’s guess. Even government has no clue about how to deal with policy relating to the digital dividend. As a matter of fact, the Department of Communications is still grappling with understanding the meaning of policy. The “SA: Policy Connect” – the country’s feeble attempt to posit a national broadband policy – is nothing short of disastrous: the absence of broadband policy from the policy document borders on administrative negligence.

Any policy about broadband mobile connectivity must include policy about the use and allocation of the digital dividend. A fundamental consideration is whether, when the policy is finally spelt out, ordinary South Africans will benefit by low-cost communications services or whether corporates will succeed in lobbying government to create high-profit business opportunities for themselves through the use of the publically-owned frequencies.

The freeing up of more spectrum will boost broadband mobile communications, as it is doing in countries where digital television migration has already occurred.

But South Africa should take heed of the warning in the 2014 Broadband Report which says:

“Asymmetric regulation has resulted in an uneven competitive landscape for services. Governments and policy-makers need to review and update their regulatory frameworks to take into account evolving models of regulation. It is vital that every country prioritises broadband policy to shape its future social and economic development and prosperity, emphasising both the supply and demand sides of the market.”

Since 2012 the ITU has annually published broadband reports that reflect what is happening around the world. The lessons from other countries and the general advice in these reports go a long way to assist in the formulation of broadband policy. No country needs to re-invent every aspect of broadband policy. Of course, domestic circumstances and the needs and aspirations of countries differ. That is inevitable. By the same token, no country needs to re-invent a fundamentally and radically novel policy. Mobile broadband roll-out is neither an engineering challenge, nor a complex policy dilemma.

It should also not be industry-led. Industry-led solutions are never in the public interest. The Department of Communications must guard against appointing so-called “policy-experts” who do business or have interests in the communications industry. Their involvement will necessarily impact negatively on the roll-out of mobile broadband connectivity at a time when communications is the epitome of a new world culture.

The turn to digital communications has brought benefits of low cost and widespread connectivity to many countries. Why should we in SA not also enjoy the benefits of low-cost mobile broadband connectivity? To get South Africa truly connected and into the modern world of communication, the freeing up of spectrum through the digital dividend is absolutely necessary. In the meantime, while the Department of Communciations dithers, the country is continuing to anguish over services that have become commonplace in many other countries.

 

 

Published in Business Day live 14 November 2014.