Telecommunications

Electronic communications

Electronic communications significantly contribute to the promotion of long-term economic growth and employment in Europe. Since the beginning of the 1990s, these technologies have enjoyed a very dynamic development when the European Commission launched its first liberalisation measures aiming to open the telecommunications markets of the Member States to economic competition.
The electronic communications sector has been regulated by several legislative measures. The existing regulatory framework is created by five directives from March 2002. In 2006/2007, the European Commission reviewed the functioning of this regulatory framework. The review showed that the dominant position of one or more operators continues to prevail on many key markets and that the regulatory approaches begin to differ within the expanding European Union. The European Commission arrived at the conclusion that in order to complete the creation of a real internal telecommunications market, a reform of the existing regulatory framework will be required.

Revision of the regulatory framework for networks and electronic communications services

The ‘telecommunications package’ is based on three pillars – ‘better regulation’, completion of the internal electronic communications market and greater involvement of citizens including better protection. One of the main proposed changes is the reinforcement of the Commission’s competences, which the European Commission justifies by the necessity to strengthen the harmonised approach and to introduce new corrective measures for the electronic communications market in the form of functional separation. If functional separation is imposed, the dominant operator will be obliged to provide non-discriminatory access to its network to all other operators by separating the securing of the access network from the provision of services. Furthermore, the Commission proposed to create a new European office for electronic communications and to involve the European Parliament in the radio spectrum management. Achieving agreement on such a text, in a form acceptable to the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission, will be the main task of the Czech Presidency in the field of telecommunications.

Adjustment of international roaming fees within the EU

The regulation of international roaming within the European Union is provided for in the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on roaming on public telephone networks within the Community from June 2007. The objective of this regulation is to adjust the unreasonably high prices for the use of mobile telephones abroad to reduce costs for European consumers.

In this regulation, the European Commission imposed on the mobile telephone operators in the European Union the obligation to activate a maximum Eurotariff for its customers from 30 July 2007, which in fact is a regulated retail price.

The European Commission has since reviewed the functioning of this regulation and published a draft revision of this regulation in September 2008. The basis of this draft revision is to extend the time of the existing regulation of prices for three more years, and to further reduce the wholesale and retail ceilings, to extend the regulation of prices to include text messages (SMS) and data services (including MMS) and to further enhance transparency. The Commission states that the roaming market continues to lack competition to guarantee reasonable pricing without regulatory intervention.
Although the Czech Republic has doubts about the need to regulate retail prices, most Member States welcome further regulation. The objective of the Czech Presidency will be to find a consensus between the Council and the European Parliament, which is likely to favour further regulation of prices, and to adopt the legislative act.

Digital dividend

In November 2007 the European Commission published its Communication on reaping the full benefits of the digital dividend in Europe via a common approach to the use of the spectrum released by the digital switchover.

The spectrum represents a primary source for all wireless communications services. The switchover from analogue television broadcasting to terrestrial digital broadcasting will free a portion of the spectrum which is not needed for the operation of existing radio and television broadcasting. This is called the ’digital dividend’. According to the plans of the European Commission, the digital dividend could be used for instance to provide wireless broadband services in rural areas where building up a new optical infrastructure would be too costly.

Review of the content of the universal service

The universal service is a set of services available in a specified quality to all end users on the entire territory of the state for an affordable price which reflects the level of consumer prices and the income of the population.

It includes for instance the connection in a fixed location to the public telephone service, periodic publication of telephone books, provision of public telephones or access of people with disabilities to publicly accessible telephone services. In connection with the development of technology and the change in the needs of users, there is now a discussion on the possibility to extend the universal service to include broadband connections to the internet. Another question is how long it will be necessary to maintain telephone books and information service on user numbers in the files of the universal service.


Revision of the GSM directive (from the working programme of the Czech Presidency)

The Commission will issue an amendment to the GSM directive thanks to which a part of the spectrum will be freed so it can be used not only for GSM. As this proposal allows for a more effective use of the spectrum and gives the possibility to offer more services, it is expected with anticipation by the business community; the Czech Presidency will try to adopt this proposal.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:01

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