On 14 September 2016 the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker gave a speech on 2016 State of the Union. At the same time, the Commission proposed an overhaul of EU telecoms rules and indicated new initiatives to meet Europeans' growing connectivity needs. These proposals are aimed at encouraging investment in very high-capacity networks and accelerate public access to Wi-Fi.
The Commission has put forward three strategic objectives for 2025:
- Access to extremely high - gigabit - connectivity (allowing users to download/upload 1 gigabit of data per second) for all main socio-economic drivers, such as schools, universities, research centres, transport hubs, all providers of public services such as hospitals and administrations, and enterprises relying on digital technologies.
- Access to connectivity offering a download speed of at least 100 Mbps, which can be upgraded to Gbps for all European households, both rural and urban.
- Uninterrupted 5G coverage, the fifth generation of wireless communication systems, for all urban areas as well as major roads and railways. As an interim target, 5G should be commercially available in at least one major city in each EU Member State by 2020.
These objectives can only be achieved with massive investments. Therefore, the Commission proposed a new European Electronic Communications Code. The new provisions should make it more attractive for all companies to invest in new top-quality infrastructures, everywhere in the EU. The new European Electronic Communications Code proposes the following objectives:
In order to achieve them, the EC proposes a series of legal changes under the European Electronic Communications Code, i.a.:
- increased competition and predictability for investments;
- better use of radio-frequencies;
- stronger consumer protection, in areas where general consumer protection rules do not address the sector-specific needs;
- a safer online environment for users and fairer rules for all players.
- promoting access to, and take-up of, very high capacity data connectivity as a new goal for the regulators;
- obligation of conducting geographical surveys of network deployments imposed on the regulators;
- peer review process concerning NRA’s measures related to the selection process, conditions related to the assignment, transfer of rights of use for radio spectrum;
- possibility of establishing joint authorisation process to grant rights of use for radio and spectrum and a mechanism for allowing alternative use for harmonised spectrum subject to clearly defined conditions;
- longer license durations of 25 years or more;
- coordination of timing of assignments by the EC;
- identification of cases when access to wiring and cables may be denied;
- possibility of imposing, by NRAs, obligation in relation to the sharing of passive or active infrastructure, obligations to conclude localised roaming access agreements, or the joint roll-out of infrastructures directly necessary for the local provision of services which rely on the use of spectrum;
- announcement of creating cost methodology for termination rates and defining single maximum termination rate;
- non-imposition of regulatory obligations in case when new network elements are included in co-investment offer;
- exclusion of outdated services from the universal service, which will consist in functional internet access services and voice communications services;
- compensation of provision of universal service from public funds;
- possibility of granting rights of use for number to undertakings other than providers of electronic communications networks or services;
- maximum harmonisation of the provisions concerning end users’ rights;
- modification of the definition of the electronic communications service to encompass internet access service, interpersonal communications service, services consisting wholly or mainly in the conveyance of signals on electronic communications networks e.g. i.e. transmission services used for the provision of M2M.
The Commission proposes also to reinforce the role of national regulators, and the Agency - BEREC to ensure consistent and predictable application of the rules throughout the Digital Single Market.
In addition, the Commission also presented an action plan to deploy 5G
across the EU as from 2018 and WiFi4EU
initiative aimed at helping offer free Wi-Fi access points to any EU citizen.
Detailed information about the aforesaid initiatives is available on the EC’s website:
Communication and Staff Working Document – Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market – towards a European Gigabit Society
Action Plan and Staff Working Document Communication – 5G for Europe
Proposal for a Directive establishing the European Electronic Communication Code
Proposal for a Regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC)
Proposal for a Regulation on the promotion of Internet connectivity in local communities and public spaces (WiFi4EU)