Geneva, 5th April, 2016 (WAM) – The latest edition of ITU’s annual global ICT regulatory report, Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2016, charts and analyzes the challenges and opportunities facing today’s ICT regulators as services proliferate, platforms converge and network operators ready their infrastructure for the next round of data-intensive technologies, from 5G mobile to the Internet of Things (IoT).

The world’s most comprehensive overview of ICT policy and regulatory trends, ITU’s Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2016 brings together insights from a broad range of leading global experts to help regulators, ICT analysts and tech journalists gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing an increasingly broad array of ICT players – and consumers.

New ICT goods and services are bringing with them enormous social and economic disruption. But while there are many benefits to be reaped, the report highlights regulatory challenges that must be addressed to preserve the ‘level playing field’ considered essential to competition and innovation. With the theme of ‘exploring regulatory incentives to achieve digital opportunities’, the report emphasizes the growing importance of flexible, light-touch, technology-neutral regulatory principles which stimulate market growth while protecting the rights of consumers and encouraging new entrants.

“Information and communication technologies are now all-pervasive and will be central to helping the world meet all 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The role of ICT regulators in creating an enabling environment for ICT growth and development has never been more critical,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “ITU’s annual Trends in Telecommunication Reform report supports regulators around the world to put the right policies in place for their national markets.”

“To realize the full potential of the digital economy, policy-makers and regulators have a key role to play in building policy and regulatory environments in which new technologies can flourish,” said Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “This 16th annual edition of Trends in Telecommunication Reform focuses on regulatory incentives to achieve digital opportunities which I believe upholds the ultimate goal of regulators: serving consumers.”

Key findings of the 2016 edition: Broadband investment Capital expenditures on fibre infrastructure are expected to surpass USD 144.2 billion between 2014 – 2019.

More than 40 operators have launched or are planning LTE-A deployments worldwide; 88% of these operators are in developed markets.

The rise in consumer data consumption may spur more Wi-Fi investment.

Increasing numbers of existing operators, new entrants and financiers are developing alternative funding approaches for broadband network investments.

Investment in broadband infrastructure is also coming from more unlikely institutions such as hedge funds or corporates that do not traditionally invest in telecoms infrastructure.

IoT The mobile industry association GSMA predicts between 1 – 2 billion M2M connections by 2020. Some experts believe that the market for IoT devices will grow exponentially, resulting in over USD 1.7 trillion in value added to the global economy by 2019.

IoT technical standards have evolved from a variety of different applications and stakeholders with different aims and requirements, and more work is needed to integrate different standards frameworks. A uniform network of “things” is unlikely to develop in the medium term. Smart meters are unlikely to communicate directly with heart-rate monitors, or recipe planners. Some networks will use public infrastructure, others will be entirely private.