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 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 as the Office of the Commissioner of Telecommunications and Postal Regulation (OCTPR).7 The 2002 law was later repealed and replaced by the RECPS Law and the regulator was renamed the Office Regulation (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 2011,11in 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, it was agreed that privatisation of a number of state-owned enterprises would take place. A timetable has now been agreed, with the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority being the first entity to be privatised.

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 (Law Number 146(I) of 2002), 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.

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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 Tele-communications 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.

Previously published by Juris Publishing, Inc

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