The Belgian regulatory authority BIPT has today published a Communication concerning GSM-Gateways (officially dated 4 Aug 2004). This follows a public consultation which was launched on 26 Sep 2003, in which the BIPT proposed to prohibit the use of SIM Gateways by telecommunications operators (but allow their utilisation by end-users).

SIM Gateways are equipment housing SIM cards (ranging from a single SIM card to several dozen SIM cards), utilised to convert fixed calls into mobile calls, with a view to benefiting from mobile-to-mobile retail tariffs that may be lower than fixed-to-mobile retail tariffs, or may be lower than the wholesale mobile call termination charges practiced by mobile network operators.

The BIPT has largely reversed its position, and has now concluded that SIM Gateways may be utilised by end-users as well as by providers of traffic for third parties, e.g. fixed telecommunications operators and specialist SIM Gateway providers.

The use of a SIM Gateway to route third party traffic is now considered to constitute the provision of a telecommunications service, and this activity therefore becomes subject to a service provider declaration to the BIPT.

In addition, the activity is considered by the BIPT to constitute a form of “special network access”, in accordance with Article 109ter§3 of the Belgian law of 21 March 1991 (as amended), which applies to both fixed and mobile network operators with Significant Market Power. This article stipulates that the operators in question must respond, on a non-discriminatory basis, to all reasonable requests for interconnection and connection, notably at points other than the network termination points offered to the generality of end-users. Arbitration of disputes relating to special network access is, according to the Belgian law of 17 January 2003, a responsibility of the Competition Council, with the assistance of the BIPT.

The BIPT Communication concludes that SIM Gateways may be installed, to route third party traffic, under the following conditions:

– With the approval of the mobile network operator; this approval may only be refused by the mobile network ‘if the request for installation is manifestly unreasonable or if it cannot respect the essential requirements’

– Declaration as a service provider to the BIPT, in accordance with Article 90 of the Law of 21 March 1991 (as amended). The declaration must be accompanied by the approval of the mobile network operator.

– Assurance that the SIM Gateway provider will comply with its obligations relating to lawful interception of telecommunications. 

The full text (in French) of the BIPT Communication can be accessed by clicking here. The Dutch language version can be accessed by clicking here.

Note: T-REGS is actively involved in debates surrounding the utilisation of SIM Gateways in numerous European countries. For a discussion, please contact Alexa Veller. To find previous T-REGS news items on SIM Gateways, type ‘Gateways’ in the search box at the top of our website.