What are specialised services and how are they relevant to the Regulation?

What are specialised services and how are they relevant to the Regulation?

BEREC uses the term ‘specialised services’ as a short expression for a longer term used in the Regulation: “services other than internet access services which are optimised for specific content, applications or services, or a combination thereof, where the optimisation is necessary in order to meet requirements of the content, applications or services for a specific level of quality”.

The BEREC Guidelines provide a few examples of what may be considered specialised services, such as VoLTE (high-quality voice calling on mobile networks) and linear (live) broadcasting IPTV services with specific quality requirements. Another example would be real-time health services (e.g. remote surgery). BEREC considers such services to be allowed as long as they meet the strict requirements of the Regulation (set out in Article 3(5)).

What is the necessity requirement and how will regulators assess it?

Under the Regulation, in order for specialised services to be permitted, they would have to be objectively necessary to meet requirements for a specific level of quality. The BEREC Guidelines recommend that NRAs should assess this ‘necessity requirement’ by first requesting information from providers about their services, and then assessing whether the requirements are met.

When making their assessments, regulators will be particularly interested in technical parameters, such as latency, jitter and packet loss. Taking into account these technical parameters, regulators should assess whether the specific level of quality is objectively necessary and cannot be assured instead over the internet. If not, these services would not be allowed. If the service passes this test, regulators will also have to assess the ‘capacity requirement’ described below.

What is the capacity requirement and how will regulators assess it?

As a second major criteria, the Regulation allows specialised services to be offered when the network capacity is sufficient that the internet access service is not degraded. To assess the practice, BEREC recommends that regulators request information from ISPs regarding how they are ensuring sufficient capacity and the scale of the specialised service being offered.

The Guidelines also explain that regulators could assess whether sufficient capacity is provided by performing measurements of the internet access service. Regulators could perform quality measurements with and without specialised services, and then analyse quality metrics such as latency, jitter and packet loss. This analysis should enable NRAs to assess whether the general quality of the Internet access is reduced by the provision of specific specialised services.