The National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications (ANCOM) is Romania’s telecommunications regulator protecting the interests of the communications users, monitoring the operators and creating the framework in which the industry can develop. In November 2017, Sorin Grindeanu, former Minister of Communication and Prime Minister of Romania, was appointed as President of ANCOM. Acknowledged in Romania for his professional and political career, Sorin Grindeanu benefits from appreciation on international level as well. Recently he has been appointed Chair of 2018’s Global Symposium for Regulators (GSR-18), world’s pre-eminent global ICT regulatory event. In an interview with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) he promoted the crucial role of IT&C in the future development of the world’s economy: “With the rise of internet, artificial intelligence, 5G communications and cloud technologies, IT&C is increasingly powering and enabling the global economy. Existing markets are transformed beyond our imagination, others have become obsolete while new ones emerge. Hardly any areas of economy and society have remained untouched.” In this context, Sorin Grindeanu discussed with The Global Research team the importance of IT&C for Romania and role of ANCOM.
TGR: What is ANCOM’s place in the Romanian telecommunications sector?
Sorin Grindeanu: Our role, as telecommunications regulator just as other government structures in general, is to create an environment which allows a healthy and fast development of the sector. It’s an institution that is important for the economy of any nation. Since I took over my mandate as President of ANCOM one of my priorities was to balance the institution following an unstable development last year and restart some of the important projects that were delayed. One example of important responsibility that we managed to fulfil thus far is the monitoring of mobile network services. Operators have a coverage obligation of up to 98% according to contracts and licenses awarded by ANCOM. Besides last year’s projects to be completed we have more new projects in the pipeline. More stability and higher pay compared to other government institutions and even the private sector allows us to attract and keep professionals longer. The strongest point of ANCOM is the staff, our specialists, and this goes for Romanian IT&C sector as a whole. This is proven by the fact that almost all major global IT&C multinationals have important local organizations hiring large numbers of young specialists and the demand keeps growing. The Government should adjust the higher education system based on the market necessities and increase the number of students that can attend tuition free programs in IT&C.
TGR: How ready is Romania to implement the 5G technology?
Sorin Grindeanu: It’s a challenge, however it’s not a challenge only for ANCOM. Our part would be to organize the tender for 5G licenses, hopefully in 2019. The 5G system, however, will impact other 8-9 areas of economy and industry therefore we need a national strategy that would involve all other stakeholders. We’re working with the Ministry of Communications and Information Society as they have the possibility to promote a governmental decision in this regard. As soon as that will happen we’re confident things will start moving faster. First thing to do is to set-up a working group, which besides ANCOM and Ministry of Communications, should include on one hand government institutions (Ministries of Transport, Health, Finances, Agriculture, Interior) on the other hand players from the market, operators and equipment manufacturers. In my recent meetings with the IT&C industry representatives I’ve explained my working group idea and they welcomed it, they’ve already given us some informational materials to be used in the foundation of this national strategy. When the work group will produce this strategy it will be discussed on a larger scale.
In autumn 2018 we will have our annual Ancom conference and the main point will be 5G. I hope until then we’ll have a national strategy ready to be adopted by a Government Decision that will provide all involved parties with guidelines and development policies.
TGR: What is the expected amount of investment for implementation of 5G technology?
Sorin Grindeanu: The amount of investments in the 5G system until 2024/2025 is estimated to be around USD9 billion according to an Ericsson study out of which around 1,7 billion will be invested in communications while the rest goes to other fields (services, transport, agriculture, health, entertainment). All these investments will have a significant impact, it’s not just a simple transition like the one from 3G to 4G technology, 5G is much more than this. And our strategy, according to ANCOM’s mandate and responsibilities, is to make sure that by selling the 5G licenses the Romanian state benefits as much as possible.
TGR: What are the opportunities for new players interested to enter the Romanian telecom market in the context of 5G implementation?
Sorin Grindeanu: Romanian telecom market is highly competitive. We are the only country in Europe to have all major 3 players – Vodafone, Orange and Telekom. There is also an important local player: Digi.Mobil. This is healthy for the market and consumers benefit from such competition. It may seem difficult for new players to enter, however, if the current operators will not understand that they have to diversify their services in view of 5G technology they might lose some of their influence. From our point of view, as regulator, we encourage competition and new players in the perspective of 5G license tenders we plan to organize in 2019.
TGR: What are the benefits and the impact of Romania connecting to EU’s single digital market?
Sorin Grindeanu: It’s a very important project on European level and Romania cannot stay out of it. At the same time, Romania is a country of extremes: on one hand we are in the top regarding the internet speed in EU, at some of the lowest costs, on the other hand we encounter resistance from some institutions towards implementation of new systems and technologies. Since 1990, the IT&C part was developed and implemented at governmental level in an isolated manner, each institution developed their own systems and apps. This became damaging later because it harms interconnection. I believe there should be a single project at governmental level which will bring everybody together. It may be costly, however it will remove the obstacles we face nowadays regarding development, new technologies, interconnection.
TGR: What is your personal message to readers of The Global Research worldwide?
Sorin Grindeanu: Romania is an attractive destination for investments in IT&C as this industry will only grow and develop in the future. ANCOM will inevitably be part of such development and we have proven that we are a fair and capable regulator, we aim to keep a friendly and dynamic environment for all involved players. The fact that on the one hand, Romania is the only country in Europe to have three largest telecom operators – Vodafone, Telekom, Orange, and a very dynamic local player – Digi.Mobil, and on the other hand we have almost all major IT&C multinationals having operational centers here, constitutes an incontrovertible proof of Romania’s attractiveness and competitiveness.