On 19-21 November, 2019, staff members from the Israel Ministry of Communications and the Israel Competition Authority visited Riga, Latvia. The visit included meetings with the Latvian regulator SPRK, which has competence, among other things, for electronic communications, with the Latvian Competition Authority, with the Ministry of Transport (which is carrying out a policy initiative for a national backhaul network) and with local operators. A short summary of the various meetings and the salient points raised in each of them follows.
The Israeli delegation met with staff members from SPRK, including Board Member Mr. Intars Birziņš, Director of the Electronic Communications Department Mr. Andris Virtmanis, and other staff members. There was an exchange of information on the regulatory frameworks for electronic communications in Latvia and Israel, and the Latvian experts provided an overview of the latest developments in the regulatory framework.
In the second session the SPRK experts demonstrated the agency's online system for radio-frequency allocation, and a discussion of the mechanisms by which radio-spectrum is allocated followed. This was especially interesting to the Israeli experts as Israel is in the midst of a tender process for 5G mobile services. In addition, SPRK experts demonstrated the agency's online tool for data collection, including market surveillance, general authorization registration, etc. A discussion developed regarding both the approaches to data collection and information flow inside the agency, as well as the specificities of the online tools used.
The second day of the study visit began at the Latvian Competition Authority. During this session the relationship between the Competition Authority and the SPRK was discussed, as well as the various powers and competences allocated to each of the two agencies. The Israeli experts expressed interest in the unique market structure in Latvia and the experts from the Competition Authority, along with the SPRK experts, explained the specific circumstances that led to this outcome.
After this session, the Israeli delegation proceeded to the Ministry of Transport, where Ministry experts explained the relationship between the Ministry and the SPRK. In addition, the Ministry presented its national backhaul network initiative, which aims to build an ultra-high-speed, nationwide network to support the provision of digital services to all areas of Latvia. A discussion developed regarding this initiative, its policy and economic rationales, and its applicability to Israel.
The final day of the study visit was spent visiting commercial undertakings. First was a visit to Tet (formerly Lattlecom), the fixed incumbent. At the visit staffers from Tet explained the strategic shift that the company was undergoing, including its transformation from an infrastructure provider to an integrated telecoms/media provider. In addition, the Israeli delegation was given a tour of the point of presence co-located with the company's headquarters, including a tour of the power generation and fire suppression systems, and of the telecoms equipment that supports the provision of high-speed broadband in central Riga.
Finally, the delegation visited the premises of Tele2, a competitive mobile operator. The firm's CEO gave a presentation on the company's strategy and development, with a focus on the preparations for the rollout of 5G services. In addition, the firm's CTO provided a live demonstration of the first 5G cell, which is located on the roof of the headquarters.