Sustaining Telecoms

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is the principle which grants end-users connected to the Internet the power to access and publish content of their choice.  This principle emphasises that traffic over the internet shall be treated without discrimination, blocking, throttling or prioritisation.  At the same time, service providers are allowed to apply reasonable traffic management, while considering the necessary safeguards and provide the so-called specialised services over their networks.

This principle safeguards the internet as an open platform for innovation with low access barriers for end-users, providers of content, applications and services, and providers of internet access service.

The EU, through its regulation 2015/2120 enshrines this principle in a Regulation which is directly applicable across all Member states including Malta.  The Malta Communications Authority is responsible to oversee the implementation of this regulation in Malta.  Since the launch, and coming into force, of the regulation, the Authority has embarked in a number of initiatives to ensure that fixed and mobile broadband service providers are compliant with the Net Neutrality regulation.  In line with the legal obligations, the MCA publishes an annual report by the end of June highlighting its activities in line with its obligations.  The latest Net Neutrality report can be found here.

Quality of Service

The quality of telecommunication networks and services have always been an important aspect of connectivity.  However, its importance has become more relevant as the complexity of the applications and services delivered over the telecommunication networks, and the dependence of subscribers on such networks increases with time.  Moreover, the economic and social function of a modern society itself depends heavily on electronic communication networks and services and their quality.

Quality of Service is a means of quantifying the quality of a network and service. Put simply, QoS, itself a broad concept, refers to the mechanism by which a number of parameters are identified such that these can collectively describe the quality properties of a telecommunications network or service. Hence, different networks which exhibit behaviour to traffic and network conditions will have different QoS properties.  

Depending on how and where such parameters are measured, QoS could be useful in a number of applications. The following are a few of such examples:

a) QoS could be measured at the service provider’s side in order to assess the level of service that it offers to its subscribers.  Conversely, QoS could be measured at the subscriber’s side to assess the level of service that is actually received by the subscriber.  The subscriber could avail himself of such an essential tool in order to assist him in identifying whether any service issues experienced are either caused on the service provider side, or alternatively within the internal network at one’s premises.

b) QoS is an important tool to the service and network provider in order to identify the level of service offered. Such a tool also allows the service and network provider to assess whether further investment is required to expand its network, as well as to identify any necessary network repairs in order to restore adequate levels of QoS.

c) QoS in broadband services has close relationship with Net Neutrality.  While Net Neutrality rules stipulate that no blocking or throttling of traffic is allowed, ISPs may apply reasonable traffic management procedures as part of their network management.  The monitoring of the Quality of Service offered helps determine the adequacy of the level of traffic management applied. 

The MCA has been active in the field of QoS since 2013 and has since focused on broadband Quality of Service.  The MCA has plans to expand its activity in the area of QoS to other networks and services.