ComReg calls in the experts

24 May 2004

UPDATE: Telecoms regulator ComReg has formed an expert group to advise the organisation on its strategic approach to developments, innovation and regulation within the mobile, fixed and wireless communications sectors.

The group members have extensive experience of and a background in the ICT sector. All have previously advised governments and industry bodies on key developments within these sectors and some have already worked with ComReg in another capacity.

According to a ComReg spokesman, this group differs from the regulator’s forward-looking panel (previously reported in which has more of a pure technology focus. “The makeup of the expert group is that they have international and regulatory experience. They are people who are economists and engineers and they are more strategic in outlook,” the spokesman said.

The expert group is the brainchild of ComReg chairman John Doherty, who wanted future regulatory measures to be informed by an awareness of international and national strategic issues which have implications for the ICT sector in this country.

The five-man Expert Advisory Group will meet with ComReg’s management policy committee on a quarterly basis over the next two years. The first two-day meeting will take place at the end of June and is likely to centre on the future strategy for ComReg. Each subsequent meeting will have a different focus on particular areas of communications technology.

Overall, the work of the group will give verbal and documentary input on strategy, backed by a knowledge of regulatory and technological developments elsewhere. At the end of the year, ComReg will publish its strategic review and the feedback from the expert group is expected to inform much of the content. In effect, ComReg’s view of the state of the market will have been tested and validated against the opinions of international experts.

The group members are Dr. David Cleevely, who founded and continues to chair the industry analyst firm Analysys. A member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers Communications Sector Panel since 2002, he has worked with many governments advising on policy to encourage innovation and growth within the telecoms sector.

Dan Flinter is a former chief executive of Enterprise Ireland who has also held senior positions, including CEO of Forbairt, executive director of IDA and board member of Forfás. During his time with EI, Forbairt and IDA, Flinter played a leading role in developing Irish industrial policy.

Dr Bill Melody is an economist and expert of telecoms reform. He is currently visiting professor at the Technical School of Economics, Denmark, the London School of Economics and the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. His CV also includes a stint as director of the World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies and editor of Telecom Reform: Prinicples, Policies and Regulatory Practices. In addition he is a former chief economist with the US Federal Communications Commission and he has advised many governments about telecom reform programmes. He has a particular interest in the issue of local loop unbundling throughout Europe.

Eli Noam is Professor of Economics and Finance at Columbia University Business School, New York. He is the Director of the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information which is a research centre that focuses on strategy, management and policy issues in telecommunications and electronic media.

Dr. Jim Norton is Visiting Professor of Electronic Engineering at the University of Sheffield and is a policy advisor in the field of telecommunications and electronic communications. He is a board member of the UK Parliament’s Office of Science and Technology.

Some of the group have previously collaborated with ComReg on other projects. Dr. Jim Norton sits on the regulator’s Forward Looking Panel and Eli Naum spoke at a previous ComReg conference on broadband.

Although the group members will not be donating their services free of charge, ComReg chairman John Doherty said that their time was being given cheaply in comparison to their usual fees. “These people can get multiples of what we can pay them,” he said. “It is because they believe they can make a contribution.”

He said it was a positive move that the group had committed to the initiative for two years. “They are not simply going to do a report and disappear again.”

Doherty also explained the need for a group with an international focus: “The liberalisation of the telecoms market meant there were a whole pile of things to get done. Now Ireland has caught up with most of the rest of Europe but that accentuates the need to be well informed. It’s not just enough for me or Isolde [Goggin, ComReg commissioner] to look at what has been done in Holland or Belgium and customise it for Ireland.”

By Gordon Smith