Technology, Management and Policy for the Telecommunications Industry

Start date:October 1st, 2009. End Date: September 30th, 2012
PIs: Pedro Ferreira (IST/UTL), Marvin Sirbu (CMU)

Dual Degree Ph.D. Students: Alexandre Mateus (Engineering and Public Policy), Rodrigo Pereira Belo (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship), Miguel Godinho Matos (Technological Change and Entrepreneurship), Patrick Agyapong (Engineering and Public Policy), Ryan Turner (Engineering and Public Policy), Qiwei Han (Engineering and Public Policy)

Teams: UMIC- Portuguese Knowledge Society Agency, FCCN – National Foundation for Scientific Computation, UNICEE, GFM-UNL MA/FUL, CMA/FCT/UNL, Carnegie Mellon
Companies: PT, Anacom, and Vodafone

This project looks at several issues at the intersection of technology and economics with application to the telecommunications industry. New challenges for telecom policy making are addressed in a multidisciplinary perspective taking into account not only new architectural principles for next generation networks (NGNs) , but alsoprobable regimes for regulation and social implications that arise from using heavily new network technologies. NGNs promise to deliver triple-play directly to end-users through high-bandwidth connections in the last mile. The regulatory context under which investments in NGNs develop has a significant bearing on the attractiveness and promptness of carriers to deploy new networks to deliver new information-based services. While in some areas facilities-based competition emerges as a natural way for carriers to directly compete for customers, there may be places where an appropriate level of competition can only be propelled if the regulator mandates LLU. It has been suggested that no single regulatory framework is correct under all circumstances. Rather, NRAs must identify specific geographic sub-regions within each country and the appropriate regime in each region. Our project will analyze issues surrounding the concept of geographic differentiation on NGN access networks, and how such a regime might operate. It will attempt to identify the regional characteristics under which facilities-based competition is likely to be the NRA’s preferred policy, and conditions under which some sort of unbundling may be the choice which best balances the NRA’s competing objectives.
The deployment of NGNs is tightly connected to the national policy for Universal Service (UniS), whose primary goal is to make telecommunications services available at affordable costs to ensure a minimum level of usage by the population at large. A number of criticisms have been made to how the UniS fund (USF) operates in countries such as the US, where all telecom companies make payments to a central fund. Portugal lacks an integrated policy for UniS although projects like connecting all schools to the Internet have been put in place. While lacking such a policy might have a harmful impact on the spread of the Information Society, it is also an opportunity to learn from experiences elsewhere and develop research on how to set up a UniS policy that does not exhibit the problems of other instances
Our project will look at how to design a USF mechanism, considering for example that in the future broadband can become part of such policy. We will study how reverse auctions can help setting an efficient allocation of funds to provision UniS and we will study how tradable UniS obligations can help achieve UniS goals by increasing flexibility
In addition, one must not forget that wireless broadband is playing a major role in NGNs as a cheap alternative technology to burring fiber in the last mile. However, business models for 3G networks are still poorly understood and a number of 3G penetration scenarios for information-intensive mobility services must be considered and assessed. We will do so along with studying new mechanisms for spectrum valuation and sharing. Particular emphasis will be placed on market-based mechanisms for sharing idle spectrum as a way to increase the efficiency of spectrum usage.
We complement our technology policy analysis of the above mentioned issues by analyzing also the social implications of new networks and technologies. We intend to do so by mapping social networks that arise due to the heavy use of new technologies and websites. By mapping such networks and mining information, for example from voice calls and sms log files, one can understand the structure of the underlying social networks and derive from its analysis ideas for innovative information services. Along this line of understanding social behavior, we will also provide an in-depthconometric analysis of the usage of broadband in schools in Portugal. We will try to match the installation of broadband access in schools to the acquisition and usage of ICTs related equipment and thus test the hypothesis that deploying Internet in schools carries a multiplicative effect to society at large.
Finally, our project will also include fundamental research on modeling stochastic networks. Typical models of multi-commodity flow networks used in telecom policy research can be upgraded to include traffic models inspired in reflected diffusion and queuing systems for non-Markovian processes. We will study how to do so as a way to define better models for NGNs deployment. We will also devote effort to studying how optimization theory can be used to help network configuration and management, as well as to solve NP-hard policy problems such as finding the Nash equilibria of games that portray, for example, the interaction between market players and the telecom regulator.