Major reform will lead to single EU telecoms market

25 Sep 2008

The European Parliament has voted to create a single EU telecoms market with the aim of ensuring better rights for consumers and businesses, as well as more competition and investment.

A key aspect of the decision was to boost the take-up of cross-border services and bring about wireless high-speed broadband for all.

“It will not have any responsibility for network security, which I regret,” said EU information society commissioner, Viviane Reding. The Parliament’s amendments have made sure that the new European telecoms regulator will be fit for purpose, namely to deal efficiently with the remaining business obstacles and consumer problems in the single market.

“I welcome in particular that Parliament has confirmed that the new body will be financed from the EU budget, in order to strengthen its independence and to ensure equality among national regulators. The European Parliamentarians also ensured that the new European telecoms regulator will be able to operate independently in the interests of everyone in the EU, while at the same time being sufficiently close to the market.

“The proposal that half of the European telecoms regulator’s staff should be seconded from national telecoms regulators, thus working alongside experts which the new European body would recruit itself, is a very constructive improvement on the Commission’s initial proposal and I fully support it,” Reding said.

The European Parliament has lent its support to Reding’s new remedy of functional separation, which requires incumbent operators to separate their network infrastructure from their services branches.

“This last-resort remedy has the capacity to rapidly improve competition in markets, while maintaining incentives for investment in new networks, as shown in the UK where it has already been implemented,” she said.

The Parliament also rejected incumbents’ calls for ‘regulatory holidays’ on the basis that new monopolies would stifle competition and investment in fibre.

“The Parliament wants telecoms operators to receive a fair return on investment for allowing access to new fibre-optic networks, including a substantial risk premium,” said Reding.

According to Reding, more work is needed on the issue of spectrum policy or digital dividend, if Europe wants to attract investment in new wireless services.

“The Commission’s proposal to reform the management of radio spectrum intends to facilitate the rollout of such services, especially high-speed wireless broadband connections that can reach less populated and rural areas to help achieve ‘broadband for all’ in Europe.

“I welcome the support expressed by the European Parliament for more flexibility and harmonisation in spectrum use, but I hope that even more ambitious solutions can be agreed so that Europe gets the most efficient and consistent management of spectrum possible, in order to bring about broadband for all Europeans,” Reding said.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: EU information society commissioner, Viviane Reding

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years