European Commission publishes new Telecoms Rules

On 14 September 2016 EU Commissioner for Digital Economy Günther Oettinger and Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip presented a package on modernisation of the telecoms legislative framework. The proposals are intended to chart Europe’s course into the Gigabit society. The last overhaul of the regulatory framework for telecoms service providers took place in 2009.

Infrastructure measures: smooth the path into the Gigabit society

The extensive package comprises a communication on realisation of the European Gigabit society, a 5G action plan, a directive for electronic telecommunication, proposals for the establishment of a body of European regulators as well as a regulation on promotion of Internet connectivity in local communities. In the communication "Connectivity for a competitive digital single market - towards a European Gigabit society", the Commission outlines its vision of a European Gigabit society. The connectivity of socio-economic growth drivers should be increased by 2025. For instance, transport hubs, hospitals and educational institutions should be given access to particularly rapid Internet. All European private households should have Internet connectivity offering at least 100 Mbit/s which can be upgraded to Gigabit speed. All urban areas as well as important road and rail connections should be continuously linked to a 5G connection. As an intermediate goal, at least one city in each Member State should be equipped with 5G technology on a commercial basis by 2020. Commissioner Oettinger clearly regards 5G technology as a game changer for European industry. With 5G, speeds of ten Gigabit per second with a latency period of less than five milliseconds can be achieved for millions of simultaneously active wireless connections. The Commission estimates the potential turnovers of this technology worldwide to be around 225 billion Euro a year by 2025. Additional positive effects can bring in 114 billion Euro more for related industries. To reach these goals, the European Commission believes that investments of around 500 billion Euro are necessary over the next ten years, primarily generated by the private sector. Furthermore, the "WiFi4EU" initiative should help European local communities to offer free WiFi access points. For this, the Commission wants to make resources available at the level of 120 million Euro from the CEF promotion programme. First estimates assume that the measure could benefit a maximum of 6,000 to 8,000 towns and villages.

Close investment gap, provide better coordination in spectrum allocation

The Commission assumes that there is an investment gap of 155 billion Euro. In order to close this gap, new investment incentives shall be provided. For this purpose, the Commission proposes for example to reduce regulation, for instance in the case where competing operators invest jointly in networks with a very high capacity. In addition, there should be incentives and better planning certainty for early investors in networks in less financially viable areas. It is usually uneconomic to invest in network development particularly in remote, inaccessible or rural regions. These are then often simply ignored. In the area of radio spectrum allocation, the Commission has set itself the objective of eliminating differences in regulatory practice across the Union. Better coordination when licences are allocated should provide operators with planning certainty. The Commission proposes a lengthening of licence periods to as long as 25 years with simultaneously stricter requirements for the use of these frequencies. Moreover, certain provisions should also be extended to new online players (such as WhatsApp or Skype). For example, requirements such as the availability of emergency numbers and uniform standards should also apply for these new service providers.