Partner and former Telco Commissioner making waves in Qatar

by Sophie Schroder06 Aug 2014
It’s an exciting time to be working in the Telco sector, says Minter Ellison Rudd Watts partner and former New Zealand Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Ross Patterson.

The head of Minter Ellison’s competition and economic regulation practice has just been appointed by the Qatar Minister of Information and Communications Technology to the newly formed Qatar Appeals Advisory Committee.

On the appointment, the minister said that Patterson will be contributing to the growth and the viability of the sector.

Patterson told NZ Lawyer that the committee only just came into effect last month, and marked the separation of the ministry from its regulatory function, which is now acting as an independent body.

“That model evolved and then they were keen to get international best practice to sit on the committee,” he says.

There are four members: The general counsel, and three independents including Patterson. The other two others are London based.

His selection is a nod not only to his work as the Telecommunications Commissioner here, but also to his ongoing experience in the UAE where he is chairman of telecommunications consultancy Akhet Consulting FZ LLE.

“In Qatar you see the evolving development of a best practice regulatory model, designed on international best practice standards. Seeing this model evolve is pretty satisfying and a lot of fun,” Patterson says of his new role.

The telecommunications sector couldn’t be more exciting than it is now, he says. The global movement towards replacing copper cables with fibre ones has seen different practices and policies emerge on a country-by-country basis, some admittedly more successful than others.

Here in New Zealand we are unique in that we have no specific policy to cover the migration, and instead the move towards fibre cables is left to market forces.

“In New Zealand we’ve got the added complication of copper prices being reviewed, so there is a huge amount of uncertainty,” says Patterson. “But every jurisdiction that has a national rollout policy is leading the [way], and, one could say, making it up as we go along.”

Methods around the globe that have been implemented to aid the transition have included making services available that are only accessible at high speeds, and creating incentives or encouragement for people to switch.

In Australia, residents are given up to a specified date to use the old copper cables before they are forced to make the switch.

Patterson has enjoyed being involved in this journey across multiple jurisdictions because he’s gained comprehensive knowledge about the variety of methods used, and is now in a better position to address the challenges.

In terms of his work in the Middle East, he says it’s generally not understood that the UAE is number one in the world in terms of fibre uptake, with Qatar hot on its trail.

“There is also a significant difference [from New Zealand]. There are only two operators there and you don’t have open entries,” he says.  “The regulatory regime there is based on a European model, so although it’s not as competitive, that’s also the great attraction and interest in the [advisory committee] role because you’re looking at a model that’s very different from here in New Zealand.”

Patterson will be able to undertake most of his Qatar Appeals Advisory Committee duties from here in New Zealand, with the exception of some face-to-face hearings under special circumstances.