Monday, May 31, 2010

European Commission: Telecom Markets More Competitive

EU telecoms markets have become more competitive, however a single EU telecoms market is still far from reality, according to a new report from the European Commission.

The Commission's recently launched Digital Agenda for Europe calls for swift and consistent enforcement of existing telecoms rules and indicates that the Commission intends to propose appropriate steps to reduce the cost of the absence of a Single Market in telecoms services.

Problems include different national regulatory approaches to tackling competition issues, such as regulating access to fibre networks. The new report also warns that regulatory uncertainty could hamper the roll out of investment-intensive infrastructure projects like Next Generation Access (NGA) networks, one of the flagships of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: "Commission guidance to national telecoms regulators has guaranteed a level of consistency and predictability that gives investors confidence. However, we need more coordinated regulation to ensure harmonised implementation and proper functioning of a single EU telecoms market."

The Commission report claims that, on the whole, its efforts have led to less and better regulation across EU telecoms markets. However national telecoms regulators continue to apply diverging solutions to cases where there are similar competition problems. These include:

  • Treatment of fibre access products in the wholesale broadband markets - e.g. in a number of cases, although fibre was included in market definitions, telecoms regulators proposed not to impose regulatory remedies or to limit these to fibre networks.

  • Applying different calculations for the charges at which operators offer part of their networks (access) or convey calls for other operators (interconnection). A number of regulators still include non-related cost elements in the calculation of termination charges, such as spectrum costs, which leads to inflated charges.

  • Different regulatory approaches in cases where telecom operators separate the provision of services to other telecoms operators from those provided to end-users (functional separation).

As of May 2011, revised EU telecoms rules will give the Commission additional responsibilities for the imposition and implementation of remedies by national regulators. The Commission is committed to ensure the consistent application of the EU telecoms rules in close cooperation with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), and to promote further high speed broadband rollout as foreseen in the Digital Agenda for Europe.

The Commission is currently finalizing a Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (NGA) networks, which builds on the guidance it provided as part of national broadband market reviews. The Commission, with BEREC, is also considering further instructions to telecoms regulators on the consistent implementation of separation commitments and remedies.