According to the European Commission’s 15th annual report on the implementation of the telecoms regulatory framework in Member States released on 25 May 2010, EU telecoms rules are being inconsistently applied across the European Union, with citizens and businesses the ones paying the price.
Delaying the Regulatory Framework
National telecoms regulators are often delaying, sometimes by years, the enforcement of the Regulatory Framework, says the European Commission, emphasizing that it is the consistent application of said framework that is needed to encourage investments in infrastructure such as Next Generation Access (NGA) networks. The Commission is relying on the newly established Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to tackle the remaining divergences in telecoms regulation.
Inconsistency in following the legislation means that consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are being denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive European telecoms market. While most Member States’ markets have become more competitive, they nevertheless remain national in dimension, with the level of competitiveness varying strongly between states.
Major price differences still exist between Member States both at retail and wholesale level, with retail mobile prices in the most expensive Member States standing at four times higher than in the cheapest States. The report shows that overall prices for internet connections have nevertheless declined in 2009 thanks to flat rate offers and faster broadband speeds, as did prices of mobile voice calls. Consumers could switch their operator while keeping the phone number faster, on average 4.1 days for mobile and 6.5 days for fixed numbers.
Digital Agenda for Europe
Although Europe’s telecoms sector weathered the financial storm in 2009 (experiencing zero growth, but faring well when compared to the overall economy’s 4.2% decline), it is the consistent enforcement of existing rules and investment in innovative services that hold the key to future growth, warns the European Commission. In its Digital Agenda for Europe, an initiative under the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission urges the telecoms industry and EU governments to join forces to bring high-speed internet access and interactive communications services for all citizens and businesses.
The Digital Agenda also contains specific measures to bring 100% broadband coverage for all Europeans by 2013. With the EU mobile broadband take-up almost doubling in 2009, the average EU take up of fixed broadband per capita reaching 24.8% as of January 2010, the report shows that Denmark and The Netherlands are world leaders in broadband, with nearly 40% of the population enjoying broadband internet access.
As growing demand for mobile broadband internet will put even greater pressure on limited radio spectrum, the Digital Agenda foresees a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, which will ensure that radio frequencies freed by the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting (the ‘digital dividend’) are available for new services, including mobile broadband.