Thursday, February 10, 2005

EU Regulators Adopt Pro-competitive VoIP Policy

The European Regulators Group (ERG) adopted a common statement on VoIP services aimed at facilitating the roll out and widespread use of Internet telephony in Europe. At a meeting last week in Brussels, the ERG said it was dedicated to creating a regulatory environment in which VoIP services can flourish.

Some key points of its 25-page Common Statement on VoIP include:

  • Telecom regulations to date have historically been focused on circuit-switched technologies.

  • The inevitable convergence of telecommunications, media and information technology sectors means that all transmission networks and services should be covered by a single European regulatory framework.

  • The regulatory framework should seek a balance between promotion of competition, the development of the internal market and the interests of the citizens.

  • The regulatory approach should enable the greatest possible level of innovation and new market entry.

  • There should be a focus on the regulatory principles of objectivity, technological neutrality, transparency, non-discrimination and proportionality.

  • Consumers and service providers should be provided adequate information to make informed choices.

  • Harmonisation is an on-going process and there will be varying levels of compliance across EU member states.

  • A full legal framework for VoIP will require time and further work.

  • Currently there are different policies in EU member states regarding VoIP numbering, number portability and whether non-geographic numbers should be permitted. The geographic numbering ranges are currently open in 18 countries. They are not open in 5 countries and 4 countries are still reviewing the situation. Further consultation is necessary.

  • Access to emergency services (112) is extremely important. VoIP emergency calls from a fixed or mobile location should be routed to the nearest emergency centre based on the contract's physical address. In the case of nomadic VoIP services, the end user must be informed by the VoIP provider about any restriction in routing emergency calls. Further consultation is necessary.

The ERG also adopted a Work Programme for 2005 and appointed Kip Meek, senior partner at Ofcom in the U.K., as its new chairman.

Separately, the European Commission issued a statement favoring an EU-wide "light touch" approach to Internet telephony as the best way to encourage competition between internet carriers of telephone traffic and traditional telephone networks.