Cyprus: Cyprus Chapter Of "International Telecommunications Law"

INTRODUCTION

The legal system of Cyprus, modelled on the English Common Law system since independence in 1960, is harmonised with the acquis communautaire of the European Union (EU), and the fiscal and regulatory regimes of Cyprus are fully aligned with EU norms. The island is a signatory to a large number of international conventions and treaties, including an extensive network of more than 40 double-taxation treaties.

In Cyprus, telecommunications is an area that has developed rapidly over recent years and is undergoing many changes in its structure; both in terms of participation of more electronic communication providers in the market and modernisation of the services offered, with 4G soon to be available.

The original law governing the telecommunications sector in Cyprus was the Telecommunications Service Law1 that granted the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority the exclusive right to provide all telecommunication services in Cyprus. The EU regulatory framework was fully implemented in Cyprus by the enactment of the Law on the Regulation of Electronic Communications and Postal Services (the 'RECPS Law'). As a result of Cyprus joining the EU, relevant EU Directives have been implemented, including:

  • Directive 1999/5/EC, regarding radio equipment and telecommunications terminal equipment and the mutual recognition of their conformity;
  • Directive 2002/19/EC, on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities;
  • Directive 2002/20/EC, on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (the 'Authorisation Directive');
  • Directive 2002/21/EC, on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (the 'Framework Directive');
  • Directive 2002/22/EC, on universal service and users rights relating to electronic communications network and services (the 'Universal Service Directive'); and
  • Directive 2009/140/EC, on the new EU regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services.

The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority is a semi-governmental organisation2 that offers its customers a complete range of telecommunications services adapted to market needs and uses the equipment, tools, and applications that modern technology offers. Its governing board comprises not more than seven members who serve for a five-year term and are appointed by the Council of Ministers.3 Section 12 of the Telecommunications Service Law Number sets out the functions that the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority must perform in order to comply with its obligations under the RECPS Law, to provide a universal service for consumers, and to ensure that it promotes the development of the telecommunications service in accordance with international practice and public demand.

The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority has the power to issue regulations to control the telecommunications service in accordance with the provisions of the RECPS Law.4 The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority also has been declared as an organisation with significant market power in the following markets:

  • The voice telephony market;
  • The land public networks market;
  • The mobile telephony market;
  • The mobile telephony networks market;
  • The interconnection market; and
  • The leased lines market.

The Cyprus Telecommunications Authority had enjoyed a monopoly on the Cyprus telecommunications market until the sector was liberalised in line with EU policy and requirements and private firms and companies were allowed to compete in the market. Further to public consultations and hearings, the Republic of Cyprus had undertaken all relevant necessary initiatives in order to complete the liberalisation process in the electronic communication sector and harmonisation with the acquis communautaire within the period of 2002 and 2003. The procedure was primarily instituted in Cyprus by the establishment of the Office of the Commissioner of Telecommunications and Postal Regulations (OCTPR) in 2002, pursuant to Law Number 19(I)/2002.

The essential goal and purpose was to conduct its obligations in Cyprus in connection with its accession to the EU in May 2004 and at the same time to create the prerequisites and conditions for the development and maintenance of healthy competition. The year 2003 was a milestone in the development of a competitive environment in the telecommunications sector in Cyprus, as it saw the entry of new companies providing telecommunications networks and services into the local market. Parallel to this, legislation was enacted in order to ensure full compliance and harmonisation with the applicable EU framework regarding telecommunications.

The RECPS Law lays down rules for the harmonisation of Cyprus law with EU law,5 and section 2(2)(c) of the RECPS Law clearly states that competition must be encouraged along with the elimination of the monopoly. In order to ensure competition, section 5 of the RECPS Law establishes a Commission and defines its obligations6 regarding supervision of service providers in order to monitor their compliance with the RECPS Law.

The Commission has its own separate legal personality and was established in 2002 under the initial 2002 legislation, ie, the Office of the Commissioner of Telecommunications and Postal Regulation (OCTPR).7 This law was later repealed and replaced by the RECPS Law and the regulator was renamed the Office of the Commissioner of Electronic Communications and Postal Regulation ('the OCECPR'). The OCECPR is headed by the Commissioner of Electronic Communications and Post8 who is appointed by the Council of Ministers for a period not exceeding six years upon consultation with the Parliamentary Committee for European Matters. The RECPS Law also provides for the appointment of a Deputy Commissioner and an Advisory Committee to support the Commissioner.

As the National Regulatory Authority in Cyprus, the OCECPR is responsible for the ex-ante regulation of electronic communication matters apart from spectrum management, which is regulated by the Department of Electronic Communication of the Ministry of Communication and Works. The RECPS Law in general determines the procedures for granting licences for electronic communication and post services to fulfil the government's plans. A good example is the award of a mobile telecom licence to Scancom, which traded under the trade mark of 'Areeba'.9 Since the RECPS Law was passed, competition has arisen among firms,10 but the 2004 Law ensures that competition among firms proceeds in a fair manner, subject to the requirements of competition law. While the OCECPR deals with ex-ante competition matters relating to the provision of electronic communication services, all ex-post competition issues relating to the activities of service providers are dealt with by the Commission for the Protection of Competition.

Following the decision of the Commissioner of Electronic Communications and Postal Services Law in 201111 in line with legislation,12 the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority was designated by the Commissioner as the provider of Universal Service for three years, starting from the publication date of the decision, for the entire set of services in the field of Universal Electronic Services Provider as defined in the RECPS Law.13 As a condition of international financial support provided to Cyprus in 2013, intensive talks have commenced on the possible privatisation of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority.

LEGAL SOURCES OF REGULATION AND ENFORCEMENT

Primary Legal Sources

Under Cyprus law, telecommunication activities and services fall under the umbrella of electronic communications and are regulated under the RECPS Law, which establishes the terms of regulation in relation to networks and services required for the implementation of electronic communication as well as the associated services and facilities that are required for the application of a harmonized regulatory framework of regulation within the EU with the objective to facilitate the convergence of the branches of telecommunication, information technology, and electronic media sectors. The main statutes relating to electronic communications in Cyprus are:

  • The Regulation of Electronic Communication and Postal Services Law, Law Number 112(I)/2004, as amended in 2012, and secondary legislation and Orders (the 'RECPS Law');14
  • The EU Regulatory Package 2002,15 as implemented by the RECPS Law;
  • EU Directive 2006/24/EC on Data Retention;
  • The Law on Preservation of Telecommunications Data for the Purpose of Investigating Serious Criminal Offences, Law Number 183(I)/2007 (the 'POTD Act');
  • The Order Stipulating Organisations with Significant Market Power (Telecommunications) of 2003,16 under which significant market power obligations have been conferred in the telecommunications sector;17
  • The Decision on the Methodology of the Determination of the Electronic Communications Market of 2005;18
  • The Order for the Determination of the Setting of Procedures and Analysis of the Electronic Communications Market of 2005;19
  • The Radiocommunications Law Numbers of 2002-2013, as amended;
  • The Radiocommunications (Competition and Negotiation Procedures) Regulations of 2002-2012, as amended;
  • The Radiocommunications (Radioequipment) Regulations of 2003-2011, as amended;
  • The Radiocommunications (Fees) Regulations of 2004-2012, as amended;
  • The Radiocommunications (Authorisations) Regulations of 2004-2012, as amended;
  • The Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law (Law Number 7(I)/1998), as amended 1998-2013; and
  • The Radio and Television Broadcasting Regulations 2000.

Enforcement Agencies and International Institutions

National Regulatory Authority

The OCECPR is the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for telecommunications, is a member of the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications (BEREC), and is a founding member of the Euro-Mediterranean Regulators Group20 (EMERG). The OCECPR also is a member of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).21

Section 53 of the RESCP Law, setting out the powers and responsibilities of the Commissioner of the OCECPR in relation to access and interconnection matters, requires the Commissioner to encourage and, where appropriate, ensure adequate access and interconnection, and interoperability of services. In so doing, the Commissioner is required to exercise his responsibility in a way that promotes efficiency, sustainable competition, and provides maximum benefit to end-users. In particular, and without prejudice to any measures that may be taken with respect to undertakings found to hold significant market power, the Commissioner may impose:

  • To the extent that it is necessary to ensure end-to-end connectivity, obligations on undertakings that control access to end-users, including in justified cases the obligation to interconnect networks which are not already interconnected; and
  • To the extent that it is necessary to ensure accessibility for end-users of digital radio and television broadcasting services in Cyprus, obligations on operators to provide access on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms to the following facilities: (a) Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and (b) Electronic Program Guides (EPGs).

When imposing obligations on an operator to provide access, the Commissioner may prescribe technical or operational conditions that must be observed by the provider and beneficiaries of such access, in accordance with EU law, where this would be necessary to ensure the normal operation of the network.22 These include conditions relevant to the implementation of specific technical standards or specifications developed by European standards organisations such as CEN, CENELEC, or ETSI. Where no relevant European standards exist, the Commissioner may refer to relevant standards established by international bodies, such as the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT), the International Organisation for Standardisation23 (ISO), or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).24

Cyprus Radio and Television Authority

The regulation of electronic communication services does not extend to the regulation of broadcasting and media organisations, for which the relevant authority is the Cyprus Radio and Television Authority (CRTA). The CRTA is an independent body comprising an Executive Chairman, a Vice Chairman, and five members who are appointed for a term of six years by the Council of Ministers.

It was established by the Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law, Law Number 7(I) of 1998. The Law, which regulates matters such as the establishment, installation, and operation of private radio and television bodies in Cyprus, endows the CRTA with wide powers and responsibilities and protects its independence and freedom from interference. Its regulation of the broadcasting sector aims at safeguarding the public interest by protecting fundamental rights and democratic principles, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right of free and pluralistic information, and transparency in the ownership of broadcasting bodies. The CRTA maintains close relations and cooperates with foreign organisations with a view to closely observing international developments in the field of radio and television. It is a member of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities and the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities (EPRA).

The CRTA appoints a consultative body, the Radio Television Advisory Committee, which reflects public opinion, the views of government services and various interested organisations and associations, and the positions of private radio and television broadcasters. The CRTA is solely concerned with private radio and television stations broadcasting in Cyprus. Its remit does not cover the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC), which is a state-funded public service broadcasting organisation. The responsibilities of the CRTA, as laid down in the Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law, Law Number 7(I) of 1998, and Regulations of 2000, encompass the following:

  • Issuing and renewing broadcasting licences for radio and television;
  • Monitoring the ownership of radio and television stations so as to avoid media concentrations, monopolies and oligopolies, and so as to ensure pluralism;
  • Monitoring the content of radio and television programmes to ensure compliance with the Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law and Regulations by broadcasters;
  • Safeguarding the editorial independence of media professionals from any kind of pressures and interferences;
  • Ensuring the equal treatment of political parties, particularly during pre- election periods;
  • Monitoring international developments in the media field and making proposals or suggestions to the Council of Ministers as regards the need to adopt, amend, or update relevant legislation;
  • Examining complaints about the content of radio and television programmes and commercials;
  • Examining breaches of the law and regulations and of the code of conduct by broadcasters, and imposing sanctions, which may include recommendations, warnings, fines, and the suspension or withdrawal of licences;
  • Issuing circulars and directives regarding observance of the code of journalistic conduct; and
  • Implementing clauses of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television with regard to the content of the private broadcasters' programmes.

The Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law not only empowers the CRTA to regulate the audio-visual media but also sets out the guiding principles it is to follow, and general rules and regulations governing the broadcast of radio and television programmes and commercials. As regards the latter, the CRTA is responsible for monitoring adherence to the advertising code regarding the length, content, and placement of commercials, and the rules governing programme sponsorship, in order to ensure the editorial independence of broadcasters.25

Department of Electronic Communications

The Department of Electronic Communications, part of the Ministry of Communications and Works, is the regulatory authority for spectrum management and the implementation of the framework of electronic signatures. The Radio Communication Law26 assigns the Department of Electronic Communications executive powers and responsibilities for the management of the radio spectrum and coordinates and manages the government's activities on all telecommunication technical issues such as satellite communications and broadcasting networks. The Department of Electronic Communications advises the Minister of Communications and Works on all electronic communications matters and represents Cyprus in international organisations and EU committees.

The responsibilities and functions of the Department of Electronic Communications include enforcing the Radiocommunications Law and accompanying Regulations, planning and managing the National Frequency Plan, establishing provisions for the rights of use of the broadcast spectrum, issuing authorisations for the use of frequencies by all radiocommunication systems, setting relevant fees, evaluating and introducing new technologies into Cyprus, monitoring the use of radio spectrum by authorised users and detecting illegal transmissions, conducting measurements and studies regarding the exposure of the public to electromagnetic fields, managing the geostationary satellite orbit, and carrying out market surveillance regarding radio equipment in order to verify that the equipment being used and placed in the market complies with the Radio Communications (Radio Equipment) Regulations 2003.

In addition, the Department of Electronic Communications regulates the enforcement of the provisions of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Stations Law Number of 1998, relating to the signal distribution network of radio and television broadcasting stations and regulates the provision of consulting services on telecommunication matters to various government departments including the National Guard and the Departments of Civil Aviation and Merchant Shipping regarding all technical radiocommunications issues.

The Department of Electronic Communications also represents the Cyprus government in relevant international and regional telecommunications organisations and is the responsible authority for managing and implementing international obligations under conventions or other legal instruments of such organisations on technical, regulatory, management, and other related issues.

These organisations include the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the European Conference of Postal Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) and its Committee (European Communications Committee (ECC)), the European Radio Communications Office (ERO), the International Maritime Satellite Organisation (INMARSAT), the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation (INTELSAT), and the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization (EUTELSAT). In addition, the Department of Electronic Communications represents Cyprus in relevant EU committees. Since 2009, the Department of Electronic Communications also has been responsible for the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy for the information society.27

To read this Chapter in full, please click here.

Originally published by Juris Publishing, Inc.

Footnotes

1 Cap 302 of 1954.

2 Cap 302 of 1954, s 3.

3 Cap 302 of 1954, s 5.

4 Cap 302 of 1954, ss 42 and 43.

5 RECPS Law, s 2.

6 RECPS Law, s 18.

7 Law Number 19(1)/2002.

8 The functions, powers, and duties of the Commissioner are set out in Part 5 of the RECPS Law (sections 20−24).

9 Scancom is a private firm that made its appearance in the Cyprus market on 12 July 2004 and trades as a company under the name 'MTN'. Areeba, which was taken over and renamed 'MTN', Cyprus, was the final bidder for the first commercial licence in 2005 (removing at that time the Greek bidder OTE which was also participating in the bidding).

10 A price war began in 2005 between the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority and its competitor Areeba when the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority refused to accept a Commission ruling that it should reduce higher prices, but the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Areeba.

11 Decision for the Determination of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority as the Provider of Universal Service in the Sector of Electronic Communication 2011, published in the Cyprus Gazette on 4 March 2011 as Individual Administrative Act Number 170.

12 Subsidiary Administrative Acts Number 138/2005 and Number 88/2007 and sections 108 and 109 of the RECPS Law.

13 Regulation of Electronic Communications and Postal Services Law, Law Number 112(I) of 2004, as amended.

14 The Law abolished and replaced the Office of the Commissioner of Telecommunications and Postal Regulation; Law Number 19(I)/2002.

15 The European Union Regulatory Package 2002: Directive (2002/21/EC) on a common regulatory framework, Directive (2002/19/EC) on access and interconnection, Directive (2002/20/EC) on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services, Directive (2002/22/EC) on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and service, Directive (2002/59/EC) on privacy and electronic communications, and Directive (2002/77/EC) on competition in the markets for electronic communications services.

16 Order of the OCECPR, Number 1/2003 of 24 April 2003.

17 In accordance with the Order, the OCECPR sets out to identify which organisations and enterprises have significant market power, as provided by Law Number 19(I)/2002.

18 Subsidiary Administrative Act Number 148/2005 of 24 March 2005.

19 Subsidiary Administrative Act Number 147/2005 of 24 March 2005.

20 The EMERG was established on 1 July 2008 and has as its main focus specialised regulation matters of Electronic Communication with the participation of regulatory authorities of Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Malta, Lebanon, and Israel.

21 ENISA is a European Union agency created to advance the functioning of the internal market. ENISA is a centre of excellence for the European member states and European institutions in network and information security, giving advice and recommendations and acting as a switchboard of information for good practices. Moreover, the agency facilitates contacts between the European institutions, the member states, and private business and industry actors.

22 RECSP Law, s 53(3)(a).

23 The International Organisation for Standardisation is the world's largest developer of voluntary International Standards. International Standards give state of the art specifications for products, services, and good practice, helping to make industry more efficient and effective. Developed through global consensus, they help to break down barriers to international trade.

24 The International Electrotechnical Commission is the leading global organisation that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems, and services, collectively known as electrotechnology. IEC publications serve as a basis for national standardisation and as references when drafting international tenders and contracts.

25 See http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/C111B7FD1A982578C2256D710021C3E2?OpenDocument&print.

26 Radio Communications Law, Law Number 146(I)/2002, as amended 2002-2013.

27 See http://www.mcw.gov.cy/mcw/mcw.nsf/mcw12_en/mcw12_en?OpenDocument&print.

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