sábado, 26 de septiembre de 2009

Mobile TV: where we are and the way forward [Article published in the Convergence Journal of the International Bar Association]

Introduction; I. IPTV, Internet TV, and Mobile TV; II. Network, spectrum and devices (A. Network, B. Spectrum, and C. User´s equipment); III. How is Mobile TV regulated?; IV. Mexico: a case study (A. Legal framework, B. Market players, C. Spectrum and digital switchover, D. Outstanding issues for Mobile TV in Mexico); V. Conclusions, and Bibliography.

Mobile television (Mobile TV) certainly presents new challenges from a legal and regulatory perspective. There are many outstanding issues which need to be defined, as mobile technologies continue to evolve and are accepted in society. Questions without a single correct response are marking the present situation of Mobile TV worldwide. Therefore, it is relevant to know the material technical characteristics of Mobile TV, its difference with other types of video services as IPTV and Internet TV as presented in section I. Network, spectrum and equipment considerations will shape the legal framework for Mobile TV, whereas the digital switchover may represent real opportunities for Mobile TV in certain countries, as described in sections II and III. This article then presents a case study of Mexico, referring to the legal framework applicable to both broadcasting and to other telecommunication services, the market players, spectrum availability and the digital switchover, as well as other outstanding issues for Mobile TV.

I. IPTV, Internet TV, and Mobile TV

There is no precise and overall accepted definition of what should be considered as IPTV (Internet Protocol television), consequently, such concept is often confused with Internet TV and Mobile TV. Moreover, these concepts tend to change constantly as technology does. Although they share some common features, each one of these concepts has certain characteristics that allow differentiation. Such differences will have an impact on the legal and regulatory framework applicable to each of those services. Therefore, setting forth some practical definitions, as well as identifying common features and characteristics, will help understand where we are, and the way forward in regulating Mobile TV.

IPTV. IPTV, simply stated, is video services delivered through Internet Protocol platforms. A more comprehensive definition of IPTV is “the provision of video services (for example, live television channels, near video-on-demand (VoD) or pay-per-view) through an IP platform. However, some define IPTV services to encompass all the possible functionalities that can be provided over an IP platform. For example, some equate IPTV services with multimedia services, a category that can include television, video, audio, text, graphics, and data. This encompasses not only one-way video broadcasting services but also ancillary interactive video and data services, such as VoD, web browsing, advanced e-mail, and messaging services” . IPTV may be provided both to a fixed location (e.g., IP television through a fixed broadband access) or to a mobile device (e.g., IP television to a PDA).

Internet TV. Internet TV or Internet video are services provided through public Internet. The content (video) distributed by Internet TV is both generated by Internet users (e.g., YouTube) or by specialized companies. Internet TV may or may not be mobile, depending on the device (e.g., PDA with wireless Internet access).

Mobile TV. Mobile TV “is the wireless transmission and reception of television content –video and voice– to platforms that are either moving or capable of moving” . It is important to note that television content to be delivered through Mobile TV has to be adapted for an ubiquitous environment of mobility, due mainly to the size of the mobile devices and to technological reasons.

The following features and characteristics are applicable to IPTV, Internet TV and Mobile TV in some or in all cases depending on the specific type of service provided.

 Interactivity. As opposed to traditional broadcasted television, IPTV, Internet TV and Mobile TV can be interactive. For example, the user of such services may play an essential role in defining which content to view and when to view it.

 Uni-, multi- and broadcast. Unicast, multicast and broadcast all refer to the transmission of content from one single source, at a given time. They differ on the users enabled to receive the content. Consequently, unicast refers to content directed to a single user, multicast when there are multiple end users, and broadcast when the transmission of content is meant to be able to be received by all the users on the network that have the appropriate device.

 Video on Demand (VoD). Video on Demand is a unicast transmission and is the most common example of personalization of television content by the user herself/himself.

 Mobility. Mobility is currently at its peak. People want communication services everywhere, anytime, and with any type of telecommunication device. Technological development is enabling mobility that will provide ubiquitous communications, including television, to be a reality in the near future.

These common features that can be present in IPTV, Internet TV and Mobile TV, contrast with the networks that provide such services. IPTV generally uses dedicated networks to provide video services. Such networks may be fixed line, cable TV, and satellite networks. Internet TV delivers the transmission through public Internet, whereas Mobile TV may be delivered either by cellular networks or by dedicated broadcast networks, as will be discussed in the next section.

II. Network, spectrum and devices

This section will focus on the relevant network, spectrum and devices issues exclusively related to Mobile TV.

A. Network

Mobile TV may be provided mainly through cellular networks and dedicated broadcast networks.

Cellular networks. Cellular networks for Mobile TV (e.g., 3G) profit from employing an already existing infrastructure. Nonetheless, Mobile TV requires considerable bandwidth to provide a satisfactory quality of video services. Otherwise, instead of a streamlined television service, it could turn out into a fragmented or slow-motion video service. Moreover, when cellular operators are obliged to comply with a minimum quality of service (QoS) in their voice and data services, bandwidth used for Mobile TV may compromise such QoS. Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS) is an example of Mobile TV technology over 3G cellular networks.

Dedicated broadcast network. Currently, providing Mobile TV through a dedicated broadcast network demands building a new network (terrestrial, satellite or a combination of them). The advantage is that the transmission of content may be at the same time to several users, without a reduction of the QoS. The standards used for dedicated broadcast networks are DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld, mainly in Europe), DVB-SH (Digital Video Broadcasting – Satellite Services to Handheld Devices, that uses a hybrid satellite/terrestrial network) , DMB (Digital Multimedia Broadcasting used in Japan and Korea), ISDB-T (Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting-Terrestrial developed in Japan), and MediaFLO (being deployed in the United States of America).

B. Spectrum

Mobile telecommunication services require the use of spectrum. Spectrum is a limited and scarce natural resource that enables the transmission or distribution of signals without using a cable (e.g., without fiber optic or without coaxial cable). Spectrum is divided into frequency bands depending on the characteristics of each band (e.g., if the waves on such frequency may penetrate walls or not, if there is need to have line of sight between the microwave antennas or not).

On each frequency band one or more services can be provided (e.g., broadcasting service, mobile service). At the International Telecommunications Union´s World Radiocommunication Conferences, countries agree to attribute certain service(s) (e.g., mobile service) to a given frequency band (e.g., 1.9 GHz) in each of the three regions in which the world is divided. This is reflected in the international frequency allocation table , and then each country at a national level will develop their own national frequency allocation table.

1. Frequency bands for Mobile TV. Consequently, for Mobile TV there are two essential spectrum issues, namely, whether a specific frequency band has been allocated for such service, and whether there is availability of frequencies.

The most relevant frequency bands identified for providing Mobile TV in general (which may vary depending the region of the world and the country) are the 470-650 MHz (e.g., for DVB-H system), 700 MHz band (UHF, used for broadcast services on channels 52 to 69), the 800 MHz (cellular services), the 1.9 GHz (PCS), the L Band, the 2.1 GHz, the S Band, and the 3.4-3.6 GHz (C Band).

Availability of frequencies is crucial for Mobile TV. Each country faces its own opportunities and challenges. Should a given frequency band be assigned to operators for traditional television broadcasting, for mobile services in general or for Mobile TV? When should such frequencies be assigned? Should it be now or is waiting for more technological advances advisable? Is there sufficient spectrum to assign to several operators? These and many other questions arise when determining whether there are available frequencies for Mobile TV in a given country.

2. Digital switchover. Availability of spectrum for Mobile TV is linked to the so called digital switchover. The digital switchover refers to the transition from analogue television signals to digital television signals. Television had been broadcast (and is still broadcast in the majority of countries) through analog signals. People have analog television devices, and the broadcasters have analog networks deployed. Therefore, the deployment of new digital television networks and the acquisition of digital television devices by people will not occur overnight.

Governments have to implement a plan for a transition period where both analogue television signals and digital television signals are simultaneously transmitted. Consequently, governments have granted a “mirror” channel for providing digital television during the transition. For example, broadcaster ABC has had channel 2 for several decades whereby it transmits content through analogue signals. In the digital transition, broadcaster ABC receives channel 55 as a “mirror” channel, where it will broadcast the same content as on channel 2, but with digital signals. Once the digital switchover or the transition period is over, broadcaster ABC will only broadcast content through one of the channels and using digital signals, and will return to its government the other channel it had been granted. This is called the analog switch off.

With the analog television switch off, there will be available spectrum that may be used for Mobile TV. Specially, considering that channels 52 to 69 (700 MHz) are on frequencies that are deemed appropriate to provide Mobile TV. Once again, each country has its own opportunities and challenges. In some countries or regions within them, perhaps there is currently no availability of frequencies in channels 52 to 69, so the digital switchover represents a real opportunity. In other countries, even if there is no occupation of those channels, the economic situation and otherwise insufficient telecommunication infrastructure might trigger public policy not directed to Mobile TV, but to broadband deployment. In summary, the digital switchover and the digital dividend will have an impact on some countries for promoting Mobile TV, whereas in others the digital switchover will make no difference for Mobile TV.

C. User´s equipment

The user equipment can be cellular phones, laptops, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), televisions in cars, among others. Despite the fact that there are many types of those devices from several different manufacturers, not all of them will be suitable for Mobile TV. Such equipment was designed without considering Mobile TV, which in turn will require further adaptation as to the screen size, battery power (e.g., video services would consume more battery power than voice or data transmissions), different frequencies receiver/tuners (e.g., broadcast Mobile TV may be on the 700 MHz band, whereas Mobile TV through cellular networks could use the 800 MHz, 900 MHz or 1.9 GHz bands). Moreover, depending on the technology that is adopted for Mobile TV, the hardware and software may differ for the broadcasting networks, and for cellular networks and the technologies will have to be modified to provide Mobile TV.

III. How is Mobile TV regulated?

Mobile TV is a new service that presents characteristics of traditional broadcasting, of telecommunication services (e.g., cellular or cable TV services), and of information services (e.g., as the legal difference in the United States of America between information services and telecommunication services ). Few countries in the world have already determined how to regulate specifically Mobile TV or have adopted light-handed regulation approach, while others are not even discussing how to regulate it. Nonetheless, the issues that will eventually have to be decided are:

 Type of service. This issue is essential for regulating Mobile TV. Traditional broadcast television has been heavily regulated from different standpoints (e.g., foreign investment, content, cross-ownership), whereas other telecommunication services have regulation that is meant to have a level playing field and the necessary protection for users (e.g., QoS, information and advertisement requirements). Therefore, deciding whether Mobile TV should be considered for regulatory purposes as a broadcast service or a telecommunication service would impact on the rest of the issues.

 Market entry. Considering that some broadcasting operators and cellular operators already have a license, would they require any authorization or additional license to provide Mobile TV with their current licenses? In some countries a notification for providing a new service would be sufficient, while in others a specific new license will be required.

 Spectrum caps. A spectrum cap is the limit imposed by telecommunication or antitrust regulators to market agents for the acquisition of spectrum on certain frequencies. The spectrum cap, as a regulatory measure, may have different purposes, for preventing the hoarding of spectrum or allowing new market players, for example. Convergence is continuously challenging spectrum caps, because frequency bands not traditionally used for certain service (e.g., video services) and therefore not considered in a given spectrum cap (e.g., in a public bid for PCS frequency bands at the beginning of the century) can be now used for such services. In the case of Mobile TV, its classification will have an impact on spectrum caps, whether it is classified as a broadcast service or as another telecommunication service. Spectrum caps will certainly become more complex to determine, and will be challenged in courts.

 Content. Content is a hot issue for Mobile TV. If content for Mobile TV will be treated as content on broadcast television, then heavy regulation will be imposed to Mobile TV, whereas if it is considered as video through public Internet a much lighter regulation will be imposed. Some countries (e.g., European Union members, New Zealand) have made certain distinctions between linear (e.g., real-time programs scheduled by an operator) and non-linear services (e.g., VoD). In the European Union, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive states the difference between on-demand audiovisual services and television broadcasting is the fact that the user of on-demand audiovisual services has the choice and control. Therefore, the European Union has adopted a lighter regulation for on-demand audiovisual media services as opposed to television broadcasting.

 Independent production. Many countries have provisions that oblige broadcasters to transmit a certain percentage of national or regional productions. If Mobile TV is considered a broadcasting service, then such provisions are likely to be applicable to content transmissions on Mobile TV.

 Must-carry and must-offer. Several countries have established must-carry and must-offer obligations upon broadcasters and cable television operators. As Mobile TV is a new service with a promising, yet uncertain future, imposing must-carry and must-offer obligations at this early stage may negatively affect the development and widespread availability of the service.

 Standards. For broadcast Mobile TV, governments may opt to choose a standard to be used mandatorily in their countries (e.g., MediaFLO, DVB-H) as it has occurred with digital terrestrial television, or they may leave it up to the operators to select the technology they deem more convenient.

 Ownership. Nationality, foreign investment and cross-ownership are also issues to be addressed. Would Mobile TV only be provided by nationals of the country? Can there be foreign investment? How much percentage of foreign ownership will be allowed? If Mobile TV is treated more like television broadcast, then, will there be cross-ownership restrictions?

The outstanding questions have no simple, nor unique responses. Each country will have to assess a myriad of issues involving technical, regulatory and political considerations, before determining the way forward in its national context. Also, the state of development and deployment of telecommunications infrastructure in each country will in the near future trigger or not, discussions of Mobile TV, and each country will have its own timeframe for implementing it.

IV. Mexico: a case study

Mexico, as a case study for Mobile TV, reflects the complexity of the decisions to be taken by governments and the current uncertainty for the private sector which would be willing to invest in Mobile TV.

A. Legal framework

Mexico has: (1) a law for broadcasting services from 1960 (Ley Federal de Radio y Television, hereinafter the “Broadcasting Law”) which governs radio and television broadcasting, both for commercial and for non-commercial purposes, having also provisions regarding content and programming, and (2) a law for other telecommunication services from 1995 (Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones, successively referred to as the “Telecom Law”), which is based on a pro-competition scheme and that does not address any issues of content.

For the purposes of Mobile TV, the following table describes the differences between the Broadcasting Law and the Telecom Law.

Broadcasting Law = Mexican
Telecom Law = Mexican

Foreign investment:
Broadcasting Law = Prohibited
Telecom Law = Up to 49%, except in cellular services that can go up to 100% with special approval.

Content regulation:
Broadcasting Law = Yes
Telecom Law = No

Broadcasting Law = Ministry of Communications (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes); Telecom regulator (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones); Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación); For advertisement and content purposes on specific subjects, Ministry of Health (Secretaría de Salud), and Ministry of Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública);
Telecom Law = Ministry of Communications (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes), and Telecom regulator (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones)
Authorization for additional services on the same frequencies of the original license:
Broadcasting Law = No, pursuant to Supreme Courts ruling.
Telecom Law = Additional services have been granted by the authorities, and will likely continue to do so.

It is important to note that the Broadcasting Law has not had any significant amendment except in the year 2006. The 2006 amendments were challenged before the Supreme Court of Justice and the most relevant parts of them were held unconstitutional, except for the public bid as the new process to follow for the granting of commercial radio and television broadcasting licenses. This Supreme Court´s ruling of 2007 has become a landmark , because –for the first time ever-, the Court made statements on several important aspects of broadcasting and spectrum in the light of the Mexican Constitution. These statements will certainly have an impact on Mobile TV if it is considered as a broadcasting service.

B. Market players

Historically, market players of broadcasting and of other telecommunication services were separated. Telecommunications liberalization in Mexico and technological convergence have facilitated the full entry of the main commercial television broadcasters (Televisa and TV Azteca) into the telecommunications market.

The relevant players for Mobile TV are:

 Commercial TV broadcasters. Televisa and TV Azteca are by far the leaders in commercial television broadcasting. Together both corporate groups represent 95% of the TV commercial licenses (Televisa with 56%, and TV Azteca with 39%) . Referring to the broadcasting sector, the Supreme Court in its ruling of 2007 acknowledged that “(…) it is a notorious fact that the current broadcasting licensees [concesionarios] have significant market power on free radio and television” .

 Mobile operators. Mobile operators by corporate group are: Telcel (Telmex´s affiliate) with approximately 71% of the mobile market based on the number of mobile lines, Telefónica Movistar (subsidiary of Telefónica of Spain) with 19.2%, Iusacell-Unefon (affiliates of TV Azteca) with 5.5%, and Nextel with 3.3% .

 Telmex. Telmex is the fixed line incumbent, and holds approximately 87.1% of the market based on income derived from fixed lines . Telmex has an express prohibition to render television (video) services. Although Telmex has requested the authorities to amend such prohibition, as of the date of this article, there has been no response from the Ministry of Communications.

C. Spectrum and digital switchover

As referred to in section II.B above, spectrum for Mobile TV may be the 1.9 GHz band (PCS) and the 700 MHz band (Channels 52 to 69). Availability of spectrum in both bands differ between them, and among the different regions of Mexico.

Spectrum on PCS band (1.9 GHz). The Ministry of Communications published in March 2008 the spectrum auction program which includes certain blocks in the 1.9 GHz band. The next step is for the telecommunications regulator (Cofetel) to publish the invitation to acquire the terms of reference to participate in the public bid. This should take place in 2009. It is possible that the current mobile service operators wish to acquire more spectrum to provide 3G services and Mobile TV. However, some of these operators would possibly fall within imposed spectrum caps. The spectrum caps along with the economic situation may delay their Mobile TV deployment plans.

Digital switchover. Mexico published its digital terrestrial television policy (Acuerdo TDT), whereby the Mexican government will grant the existing television broadcasters with a “mirror” channel for transmitting their content on digital signals, additional to the analogue signal channel. The expected date for the digital switchover is the year 2021. Nonetheless, the switchover date may be extended by the Ministry of Communications.

If the initial switchover date is in the year 2021, does that mean that mobile TV on the 700 MHz band (channels 52 to 69) would have to wait until then? Not in the case of Mexico, because Mexico has granted very few licenses -both for analog and digital signals-, to use channels from 52 to 60 for broadcast television, and they are mainly in the Mexican border with the United States of America. Consequently, from a spectrum availability standpoint, Mexico could start anytime a public bid for Mobile TV in the 700 MHz band on essentially its whole territory.

Finally, in connection with the 700 MHz band, the Mexican Allocation Chart (Cuadro Nacional de Atribución de Frecuencias) reflects that such channels may be used for radiocommunication services (e.g., Mobile TV).

D. Outstanding issues for Mobile TV in Mexico

Mobile TV’s future in Mexico will definitely depend on the classification of it as a broadcasting service or as another telecommunication service. One of the main characteristics of TV broadcasting in Mexico is that it is a free-of-charge service, whereas other video telecommunication services are rendered for a fee. Therefore, in my opinion, the commercial scheme for Mobile TV will be a key factor to considering whether it is a telecommunication service governed by the Telecom Law. Mobile TV as a telecommunication service will benefit from a pro-competition scheme, and direct foreign investment, whereas if considered as broadcasting service its widespread deployment would be postponed for economic reasons.

Moreover, the television broadcasting service is deemed, pursuant to the Supreme Court´s ruling, “a public interest activity that serves a social function of transcendental relevance for the nation, because the communication media are an instrument for the effectiveness of the citizens´ fundamental rights. Radio and television are massive communication media which have a transcendental importance for the individual’s daily life, consequently, the State, when regulating the use of a public good employed for such activity [spectrum], must guarantee equal access opportunities and foster a pluralism that assures to society the respect for the right to information and the free expression of ideas” . From the purposes of broadcasting services set forth by the Supreme Court, Mobile TV can be differentiated in order to be considered a telecommunication service.

Content transmissions through Mobile TV should follow a light-handed regulation. These should only address protection of minors, prevention of promotion of racial/religious hatred, and advertisements (e.g., related to health) issues. Must-carry and must-offer obligations are not set forth either in the Broadcasting Law, or in the Telecom Law. Only Televisa has certain must-offer obligations imposed by the Antitrust Commission (Comisión Federal de Competencia) which actual effects are debatable. Consequently, no must-carry, nor must-offer provision should be applicable for Mobile TV.

V. Conclusions

Mobile TV can be confused with IPTV and Internet TV because they share some features and characteristics as being interactive, and having the possibility of transmitting either as unicast, multicast or broadcast. Besides the obvious mobility of Mobile TV, IPTV and Internet TV can also have the mobility characteristic (e.g., through a PDA or laptop and wireless access). However, from a network standpoint, IPTV employs dedicated networks, Internet TV uses the public Internet, and Mobile TV may be transmitted via cellular networks or by dedicated broadcast networks.

When using a cellular network for Mobile TV, there is an efficiency considering that it will be employing existing infrastructure. Nonetheless, video services demand large bandwidth which can reduce the QoS of voice and data communications through the cellular network. The standard for Mobile TV on 3G cellular network is MBMS, and the spectrum frequency bands are the 800 MHz, the 900 MHz, the 1.9 GHz, and the 2.1 GHz bands.

On the other hand, if the decision is to render Mobile TV through a dedicated broadcast network, then investment in and deployment of a new network is mandatory. The upside is that several users may be served simultaneously, without a reduction of the QoS. There are different standards used around the world as DVB-H, DMB, ISDB-T, and MediaFLO. The spectrum frequency bands include the 470-650 MHz, and the 700 MHz bands.

Availability of frequencies is crucial for Mobile TV. Each country faces its own opportunities and challenges. For some countries, availability of frequencies is linked with the digital switchover provided that this would liberate some spectrum from UHF bands. For other countries with available UHF frequencies or with a switch-off date in the next couple of decades, the digital switchover makes no difference. For these, the key factors for Mobile TV will be the country´s economic situation and the status of telecommunication infrastructure deployment.

User´s equipment can be cellular phones, laptops, PDAs, televisions in cars, among others. However, not all of them will be suitable for Mobile TV considering that they will require adaptations (e.g., screen size, battery power, different frequencies receiver/tuners).

Mobile TV presents characteristics of traditional broadcasting, of telecommunication and of information services. A few countries in the world have already determined how to regulate specifically Mobile TV or have adopted light-handed regulation approach, while others are not even discussing how to regulate it. The main issue to be decided is whether Mobile TV is a broadcasting, a telecommunication service or an hybrid type of service subject to special regulation. This determination will have an impact on market entry, licensing, spectrum caps, content, independent production quotas, must-carry/must-offer obligations, standards, and ownership related issues. There are definitely no simple or unique responses. Each country will have to assess a myriad of issues involving technical, regulatory and political considerations, considering its respective state of development and deployment of telecommunications infrastructure. In some countries Mobile TV will be a present need, in others a luxury affordable only to a very limited part of the population.

Mexico´s study case reflects the complexity of the pending governmental decisions and the current uncertainty for the private sector which would be willing to invest in Mobile TV. Two separate laws for broadcasting and for other telecommunication services exist. There are different provisions for foreign investment: the Broadcasting Law prohibiting it and the Telecom Law allowing up to 100% for cellular services. Regarding content, the Broadcasting Law has specific regulation, whereas the Telecom Law is silent. Besides the telecom regulator (Cofetel) and the Ministry of Communications, the broadcasting sector is regulated by three other Ministries.

In connection with spectrum availability in Mexico for Mobile TV, it is expected that during 2009 spectrum auctions for the 1.9 GHz bands will take place, and there is plenty of availability of spectrum in the 700 MHz band (channels 52 to 69). Consequently, from a spectrum availability standpoint, Mexico could also start anytime a public bid for Mobile TV on the 700 MHz band in essentially its whole territory.

Mobile TV’s future in Mexico depends on the classification of it as a broadcasting service or as other telecommunication service. The commercial scheme for Mobile TV will be a key factor to consider it as a telecommunication service governed by the Telecom Law. In light of the Supreme Court´s ruling, Mobile TV can be differentiated from broadcasting services. Mobile TV as a telecommunication service would benefit from a pro-competition scheme, and direct foreign investment. Content transmissions through Mobile TV should follow a light-handed regulation. The key determination for Mobile TV in Mexico may take some time as it appears that currently the authorities have other priorities on their agendas. However, private sector and telecommunication operators’ demonstration of real interest in Mobile TV could trigger in the near future the relevant definitions by the Mexican government.


Alden, John, WRC-07 Results and impact on terrestrial wireless access systems, presented at 8th Global Symposium for Regulators, Pattaya, Thailand, March 2008.

Álvarez, Clara-Luz, Derecho de las Telecomunicaciones, Miguel Ángel Porrúa and Cámara de Diputados, México, 2008.

Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones (México), Televisión Móvil, Mexico, January 2008.

European Union, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committe of Regions: Strengthening the Internal Market for Mobile TV, 18.7.2007, COM(2007) 409 final, Brussels, 2007.

---------- Directive 2007/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2007 amending Council Directive 89/552/EEC on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities, Official Journal of the European Union, L 332/27, 18.12.2007.

International Telecommunications Union, Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2008 Six degrees of sharing, Geneva, International Telecommunication Union, 2008.

Mexico, Ley Federal de Radio y Televisión.

---------- Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones.

---------- Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, Pleno, Sentencia relativa a la Acción de Inconstitucionalidad 26/2006 promovida por Senadores integrantes de la Quincuagésima Novena Legislatura del Congreso de la Unión, en contra del propio Congreso y del Presidente Constitucional de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, así como los votos formulados por el señor Ministro Genaro David Góngora Pimentel, published in the Federal Official Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación) on August 20, 2007, with clarifications published on October 19, 2007.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, IPTV: Market developments and regulatory treatment, DSTI/ICCP/CISP(2006)5/FINAL, 2007.

---------- Mobile Multiple Play: new service pricing and policy implications, DSTI/ICCP/TISP(2006)1/FINAL, 2007.

lunes, 14 de septiembre de 2009

Prorrogar o cancelar concesiones, ¿qué hacer?

¿Por qué tarda tanto la Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones y la Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes en prorrogar concesiones? Parecería que es un caso más de lentitud burocrática, porque los requisitos de ley son simples: solicitar la prórroga en un plazo determinado, haber cumplido con sus obligaciones y aceptar las nuevas condiciones que se le impongan. Sin embargo, las prórrogas son un tema incluso más complejo que las licitaciones de frecuencias y su impacto en el sector es de magnitudes equiparables. En otros países la importancia de prorrogar y la de licitar es exactamente igual.

 Pago al Estado. La discusión de las prórrogas muchas veces se centra en cuánto tienen que pagar, como si lo más importante fuera el dinero al Erario en vez de la derrama económica si México tuviera más servicios de telecomunicaciones, de mejor calidad y a menores precios. Además, recuérdese que el gobierno ha perdido muchos litigios en tema de pagos por uso de frecuencias, teniendo que devolver los montos con actualizaciones e intereses. Para cobrar una contraprestación o un derecho, éstos deben estar establecidos en la ley por mandato constitucional. El detalle es que si las prórrogas se fundamentan en la Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones (LFT), simplemente será inconstitucional la contraprestación porque la ley no lo contempla. Si el fundamento es la Ley Federal de Derechos, de todos modos estará sujeta a litigio. ¿Cómo encontrar el equilibrio entre un pago justo por usar un bien de dominio de la Nación y el principio de legalidad?
 No al acaparamiento de espectro. Existen empresas en México que han obtenido mucho espectro y no lo utilizan, o lo “revenden” a otros. ¿Por qué sucede y por qué se ha permitido? Sucede porque las licitaciones bajo subasta ascendente asumen que aquél que esté dispuesto a pagar más por obtener la concesión, es porque pretende hacer un uso más eficiente de las frecuencias. Esta suposición ha resultado falsa. En la realidad algunos pagan más porque saben que es un recurso escaso y que la autoridad tardará muchos años en volver a licitar. Es como si en un estadio de futbol al inicio del partido una persona compra todas las aguas y refrescos, no es porque tenga mucha sed, sino porque sabe que a medio partido los espectadores pagarán lo que sea por un refrescante. En estos casos lógico es que la autoridad decida no prorrogar o prorrogar parcialmente sólo respecto a la parte que sí utiliza el concesionario. Pero la lógica no siempre es la que prevalece.
 Los suertudos. Algunos recibieron concesiones con mucho ancho de banda (capacidad), quizá fue por favoritismo o porque la tecnología en esa entonces precisaba de ese ancho de banda. El avance tecnológico generalmente implica utilizar menos ancho de banda para prestar los mismos servicios. Adicionalmente, algunas frecuencias se benefician por nueva tecnología para servicios de tercera y cuarta generación. En estos casos se puede prorrogar parcialmente para un uso más eficiente o para introducir nuevos competidores.
 Obsolescencia y nuevas tecnologías. Si las frecuencias son para prestar un servicio cuya tecnología se ha convertido en obsoleta –como podría ser el paging- y se requiere esa banda de frecuencias para introducir nuevas tecnologías, se puede negar la prórroga.
 Las fáciles. Si un concesionario no cumplió con sus obligaciones, no solicitó en tiempo o no acepta las condiciones, se niega la prórroga.

Se están venciendo las concesiones de frecuencias otorgadas conforme a la LFT, las cuales se están acumulando con las concesiones que fueron discrecionalmente otorgadas antes de la ley. Las decisiones que debe tomar la Cofetel y la SCT no son fáciles, más aún porque se enfrentan a grupos de poder económico importantes. Aun cuando justifiquen debidamente las negativas de prórroga o las prórrogas parciales, los litigios serán inevitables. El reto más grande será que funden y motiven rigurosamente su actuar, de otra manera incluso podrá invocarse responsabilidad patrimonial del Estado y sus servidores públicos.

Elecciones y medios electrónicos, ¿territorio sin ley?

Parte integral del proceso democrático son el Internet y las tecnologías de la información y comunicaciones (TIC) de acuerdo con la Unión Europea. Este proceso electoral 2009 ha aprovechado los distintos servicios de Internet y de TIC tanto para las campañas como para el proceso mismo. La utilización de las TIC es positiva y sería un error tratar de limitar el uso del Internet en el proceso electoral. Sin embargo, surge la interrogante de si el ciberespacio es el actual lejano oeste, un territorio fuera de la ley. Veamos algunos ejemplos.

 Hotmail. Diversos partidos políticos se anunciaron en Hotmail, de tal manera que las personas que accedíamos a nuestras cuentas de Hotmail veíamos la propaganda política. ¿Cuánto le costó al Partido de la Revolución Democrática, al Partido Revolucionario Institucional y demás que incluyeron esos banners de propaganda en el correo electrónico de Hotmail? ¿Estarán reportando esos costos para efectos de ley o simplemente lo consideraron un mundo virtual fuera del alcance de la ley?

 Blogs. Los blogs son una manera de ejercer la libertad de expresión por cualquier persona con acceso a Internet. Es un medio gratuito y de acceso público, donde se pueden incluir los puntos de vista del administrador del blog (cualquier persona puede serlo) y los comentarios que reciban. A diferencia de los medios masivos de comunicación tradicionales como los impresos, la radio o la televisión, la decisión del contenido no pasa por el escrutinio del editor o de los directivos de los medios, sino que depende de la voluntad del autor del blog. No hay costo por un blog, por tanto no hay qué fiscalizar por parte del Instituto Federal Electoral.

 Correo electrónico. El envío masivo de correos electrónicos apoyando a un candidato o denostando a otro, fue constante. El costo del envío de este tipo de correos es marginal, es menos costoso que los volantes, menos contaminante que los plásticos con las caras de los candidatos que no aportan mayor información a los votantes, no afecta la estética de las ciudades con los pintados de bardas, etcétera. Si acaso genera molestia en los receptores de estos correos, que los borrarán por considerarlos correo basura, al igual que aquellos correos de la princesa africana que –después de la matanza de su familia- ofrece una gratificación por triangular una transferencia de fondos.

 You Tube. La popularidad de You Tube ha sido aprovechada también para efectos políticos. Un video en You Tube tampoco quiere decir que tenga una gran audiencia, muchas veces las mismas personas que suben un video son las que los “seleccionan” en múltiples ocasiones con la finalidad de que suba en el ranking y mostrar –ficticiamente- que todos están atentos al video. Aparte del costo de crear el video, el subir un video a You Tube no tiene costo y si tiene un potencial interesante de difusión.

 Llamadas telefónicas. En México, al igual que en EUA, existe el registro de números telefónicos que deciden no recibir llamadas con fines de mercadotecnia. Sin embargo, en ambos países, están excluidas las llamadas por razones electorales.

 Mensajes de texto (SMS). Los mensajes de texto no están previstos expresamente en el Registro Público de Consumidores que no desean ser molestados vía telefónica. Sin embargo, al ser tema político, los mensajes también estarían excluidos. Pero, el costo del envío de mensajes, ¿quién lo paga? ¿Está fiscalizado? ¿Cómo distinguir entre mensajes enviados a título personal y aquellos parte de una campaña?

 Google. El IFE estableció una alianza con Google por la cual el IFE proporciona la ubicación e información de los domicilios donde están ubicadas las casillas electorales, mientras que Google da los mapas e imágenes satelitales. Este es un extraordinario ejemplo de aprovechar positivamente la tecnología durante el proceso democrático.

Las TIC jamás dejarán de sorprendernos con las nuevas modalidades como ahora el Twitter. ¿Cómo se adaptarán las leyes el Congreso de la Unión sin coartar el legítimo derecho a difundir las plataformas políticas?