In general terms, Universal Service (US) is taken as meaning a minimum set of services of specified quality which is available to all users at an affordable price.

This concept, as well as the minimum set of services encompassed by the electronic communications sector, is defined in Law no. 5/2004 of 10 February, as amended by Decree-Law no. 176/2007 of 8 May (Law of Electronic Communications).  With respect to the postal services sector, the universal postal sector is defined and governed by Law no. 102/99 of 26 July as amended by Decree-Law no. 116/2003 of 12 June (Basic Law for Postal Services).

Due to its nature and its relevance at a socio-economic level, the scope of the universal service is not static; rather the intention is that it evolves as it keeps up with technological progress, market development and changes in user demand.

As such, the US is a subject that requires recurring reflection at a national and community level, with respect to various issues concerning its scope, quality, price, form of provision and respective financing.

Currently, reflection on the US in electronic communications is taking place in the context of the review of sector's regulatory framework, underway at a community level.  This reform, which should be concluded in 2009, is covered by a draft Directive, amending, among others, Directive 2002/22/EC of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.

With respect to the postal sector and following the adoption of the Postal Directive - Directive 2008/6/EC of 20 February - by the European Parliament, reflection on the US is focused on the liberalisation of the sector, planned for 2011.  This represents a policy consensus on the realisation of the internal market of postal services and the reform of the sector.

It is in this general context that ANACOM is organising an International Conference on the subject of the Universal Service.  The Conference has been scheduled for 18 September 2008, and will take place in the Large Auditorium of Culturgest, situated in the Caixa Geral de Depósitos head office building in Lisbon.