On 26 April 2019, the Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) issued a statement introducing certain amendments to the current Class Licence for Offer of Telecommunications Services (Class Licence). The amendments aim to ensure that the regulatory regime of the Class Licence remains efficient and up-to-date, and to safeguard consumers’ interest in light of the emergence of new technologies, innovative business models and commercial practices of market players. The revised Class Licence will take effect on 26 October 2019.
Telecommunications service providers who currently hold a Class Licence (or more precisely, deemed to have held a Class Licence) should note this important regulatory change.
Under the current Class Licence, any person meeting the relevant licence criteria and conditions is authorised to offer any telecommunications services to the general public, as long as the provision of such services does not involve the establishment, operation or maintenance of any means of telecommunications. The licensees of the current Class Licence are deemed to have obtained a Class Licence provided that certain regulatory conditions (e.g. confidentiality obligations) are complied with on an ongoing basis, and no specific approval from or registration with the OFCA is required.
Revised Class Licence
The revised Class Licence seeks to introduce a registration requirement to the regulatory regime of Class Licence. Under the new regime, licensees (except those whose registration obligation has been waived by the OFCA (see below)) shall register the following information with the OFCA and obtain the written confirmation from the OFCA on the successful completion of the registration before the commencement of their telecommunications operations:
(i) name of the licensee;
(ii) company registration number or the business registration certificate number;
(iii) customer service hotline numbers;
(iv) contact details;
(v) types of telecommunications services to be offered;
(vi) names of all licensed telecommunications operators with whom the licensee has entered into an agreement, arrangement or understanding for the provision of telecommunications services under the licence; and
(vii) any other information as specified by the OFCA from time to time.
Further, the revised Class Licence imposes notification obligations on the part of licensees if there is any change to the information filed with the OFCA.
The revised Class Licence also empowers the OFCA to refuse the registration of any person who is not qualified to be licensed by serving a non-qualification notice. Unless and until the non-qualification notice is revoked by the OFCA, any application from that person for registration will not be accepted.
At this stage, the OFCA has waived the registration requirement for licensees with a customer base of less than 10,000 subscriptions. Licensees whose customer base does not meet the threshold may register with the OFCA voluntarily.
To facilitate a smooth transition to the revised Class Licence regime, existing licensees of Class Licence will be given a grace period of 3 months after the effective date of the revised Class Licence to complete the registration process (i.e. on or before 25 January 2020).
After the revised Class Licence has come into force, it is likely that the OFCA will closely monitor and maintain oversight of the operations of licensees. Businesses in the telecommunications sector should carefully review their business operations to ensure full compliance with the new registration requirement and the ongoing conditions of the revised Class Licence.