International telecommunication law

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Definition[edit | edit source]

International telecommunication law
International telecommunication law is a specialised regime of international law, primarily concerned with ensuring the operation of telecommunication networks and their interoperability. These networks are components of domestic and global cyber infrastructure that include both wired communication grids and wireless communication networks (and their hybrid systems). Examples of telecommunication networks include cellular telephone systems, satellite systems, undersea cables, and global positioning systems.

International telecommunication law has its foundation in the treaty regime of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).[1] The ITU has operated since 1865 as an intergovernmental organization carrying out the principal responsibilities of international cooperation and technical regulation for telecommunication networks, subject to a detailed treaty regime. While the International Group of Experts drafting the Tallinn Manual 2.0 did not conclude whether this regime necessarily reflects customary international law, they did agree that it constitutes a longstanding enabling regime for the international telecommunication of nearly all States, as parties to the ITU treaties.[2]

There are three binding documents of the ITU: the Constitution, the Convention, and the Administrative Regulations.[3] Under their provisions, the ITU is the sole intergovernmental organisation that has been authorized to allocate frequency bands in the electromagnetic spectrum, on which wireless telecommunication services depend. The ITU is also responsible for ensuring optimal use of the global spectrum resource by member States, as well as for the development and standardisation of other telecommunication activities. The ITU Constitution lays down the specific powers of the ITU, and certain powers and duties of member States in relation to the coordinated operation of telecommunication infrastructure.

In the context of general international law, of particular relevance are the Articles in the ITU Constitution, Convention, and Administrative Regulations that relate to trans-border telecommunication, which includes any cyber communications involving data transmission across State borders or through extraterritorial regions. The obligation of States to avoid harmful interference with one another’s wireless communications is also critical to cyber operations and activities at the international level. Additional obligations include the stipulation that States establish, maintain and safeguard their telecommunication networks in order to support the exchange of international telecommunications; as well as the sovereign authority of States to suspend or stop international telecommunication under certain circumstances.

The ITU Constitution provides for negotiations, agreements and arbitration in cases of disputes in interpretation or application of the Constitution, Convention or Administrative Regulations.[4] However, “no enforcement mechanism exists in the case of non-compliance” of decisions stemming from these procedures.[5]

Appendixes[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Tallinn Manual 2.0, 284. Sabine Von Schorlemer, ‘Telecommunications, international regulation’, (2009) Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law.
  2. Tallinn Manual 2.0, introduction to chapter 11, para 2
  3. Sabine Von Schorlemer, ‘Telecommunications, international regulation’, (2009) Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law.
  4. Constitution and Convention of the International Telecommunication Union (concluded 22 December 1992, entered into force 1 July 1994) 1825 UNTS 330, art 56
  5. Sabine Von Schorlemer, ‘Telecommunications, international regulation’, (2009) Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law.

Bibliography and further reading[edit | edit source]