Bringing together regulatory authorities from all around the world, the 7th Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR) has identified best practice guidelines needed to facilitate the migration of next-generation networks (NGN). The 38-point roadmap is designed to encourage regulatory frameworks that foster innovation, investment and affordable access to NGN. 

"Our goal is to encourage the design of regulatory frameworks that foster innovation, investment and affordable access to NGNs and that facilitate the migration to NGN and ultimately lead to bridging the digital divide," says Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU. "We believe the best practices adopted at this meeting will ultimately offer the possibility of delivering real benefits to providers and consumers, through cost reduction as well as offering innovative new services."
The best practice guidelines underscore the importance of embracing the principles of a clear and transparent regulatory process including the adoption and enforcement of rules; technology-neutral and competitive network provision under a coherent approach that address the issues raised by convergence.
The guidelines also call on regulators to adopt forward-looking regimes subjected to regular reassessments to ensure that undue regulatory barriers to competition and innovation are removed. This on-going monitoring would also ensure that users and providers are able to migrate to future networks whenever market conditions are met.
Regulators are also urged to adopt investment friendly regulation, considered of paramount importance for the success of NGN network deployment, while maintaining a level playing field and protecting consumer interests. The adoption of flexible but accurate interconnection models are also encouraged to allow smooth transitioning to NGNs.
In particular, participants agreed that regulators should take steps to ensure that the market suffers no undue distortion of competitiveness. In view of the high level of convergence both at the transport and service level, participants felt that there was a risk that NGN providers and operators could be in a position to restrict service level competition to their own advantage.
There was, therefore, agreement that regulators should be vigilant and monitor any incident that could require a regulatory response in a way that would not act as a deterrent for NGN service providers and operators. Regulators are also asked to keep in mind the need to create regulatory certainty for both incumbent and competing or alternative providers.
Because the deployment of NGN will not happen overnight, the best practices encourage regulators to define policies that allow for the co-existence of legacy and IP networks, alternative voice services such as VoIP or bundled services that can offer voice together with TV and Internet also called triple play.
In doing so, regulators are to consider applying the same obligations to all operators and providers of telephony services whether traditional irrespective of how they are delivered to consumers, under the symmetrical regulatory approach.
The best practice guidelines cover all aspects of service provision including authorization, access, interconnection and interoperability, numbering and NGN identification systems, universal access, quality of service, consumer awareness, security and protection.