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EU Telecoms Policy

Latest news about the European Union's policy on telecommunications.

Harmonisation of a charging capability of common charger for mobile phones - guide
Incompatibility of chargers for mobile phones is a major inconvenience for users and also leads to unnecessary waste. Today there is a plethora of chargers for mobile phones in the EU. Many of them can only charge a particular mobile phone. Almost every household has a collection of chargers that have become superfluous over time. Old chargers currently generate several thousands of tons of waste a year.

Halt to bad consumer surprises thanks to data roaming cut-off limit
BEUC welcomes that, as of the 1st of July 2010, a mandatory cut-off limit on data roaming charges lowers the financial risks for European mobile phone users. The maximum charge for data roaming (connecting to mobile internet, downloading and sending files when abroad) will be set at €50, unless consumers deliberately choose another limit. Furthermore, maximum wholesale prices for data roaming will decrease from €1 to 80 cents per megabyte.

Telecoms: new measures to counter data roaming bill shocks from 1 July; lower roaming call price caps - guide
From 1 July 2010 consumers no longer need to worry about accidentally running up huge bills when they connect to the internet using mobile networks via a phone or computer when abroad in the EU. Thanks to the EU's roaming rules, from 1st July travellers' data-roaming limit will be automatically set at EUR 50 excluding VAT (unless they have chosen another limit - higher or lower). Operators will have to send users a warning when they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator will have to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming that particular month. In addition, maximum wholesale prices for data roaming will fall from €1 to 80 cents per MegaByte. The maximum price for making a roaming call will be cut to 39 cents per minute (excluding VAT), instead of the current 43 cents, while receiving a call will cost a maximum of 15 cents per minute (excluding VAT), instead of 19 cents. The cost of making and receiving calls when abroad in the EU will now be 73% cheaper than in 2005, when the EU first started to tackle excessive roaming charges.

European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has welcomed progress made by mobile phone operators on their work to keep children safe while using mobile phones, but urged operators to raise parents' awareness of new potential risks children face when using smart phones (such as easier access to adult content on the internet). A report just published by the GSM Association, the trade body of the mobile phone industry, shows that 91 companies are putting in place at national level the measures agreed in a Europe-wide voluntary agreement brokered by the European Commission in 2007.

EU accepts BT/Ofcom plans for fibre broadband 'virtual unbundling'
The European Commission has accepted UK telecoms regulator Ofcom's proposal to oblige British Telecom to provide 'virtual' access to its optical fibre infrastructure to alternative operators.

EU aims to bridge the digital divide
EU Transport Ministers at their telecommunications session today approved the European Digital Agenda for high-speed internet and secure digital market, among others, to boost growth and employment in the EU.

Country by country breakdown of 15th Progress Report on European Telecoms Market 2009
The European Commission's latest (15th) annual report on the Single European Electronic Communications Market shows that consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive EU-wide telecoms market because of inconsistent application of EU telecoms rules. The report indicates that most Member States' markets have become more competitive, but remain national in dimension and that the level of competitiveness varies strongly between Member States. This is why the Commission's 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.

Lack of progress on single EU telecoms market hurts consumers
Consumers, businesses and the EU economy as a whole are denied the full economic benefits of a truly single and competitive EU-wide telecoms market because of inconsistent application of EU telecoms rules,according to the European Commission's annual report on the Single European Electronic Communications Market.

Digital Agenda: investment in digital economy holds key to Europe's future prosperity: Commission report
Europe's digital economy is growing in strength, spreading throughout all sectors of the economy and reaching into all areas of our lives, according to the European Commission's Digital Competitiveness report published today. Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) have driven half of the productivity growth in Europe over the past 15 years. Six out of ten Europeans regularly use the internet. However, if Europe wants to fully exploit the potential benefits of the digital economy, it must step up a gear and provide faster broadband and an internet people trust, improve citizens' skills, and encourage even more ICT innovation. The European Commission will propose specific measures in these areas with its Digital Agenda for Europe, a flagship of the Europe 2020 strategy, to be launched shortly.

Mergers: Commission clears Cisco's proposed acquisition of Tandberg, subject to conditions
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Tandberg, a vendor of videoconferencing products with dual headquarters in Norway and in the US, by Cisco of the US. The approval is conditional.

Lithuania withdraws proposed regulation on telecoms
On 16 March 2010 the Lithuanian Authority, Ryšių reguliavimo tarnyba (RRT), informed the European Commission that it was withdrawing its proposed measure on network infrastructure access markets. The Commission had earlier this month raised serious doubts about the compatibility of the proposed regulation with the principles of EU competition law.

Use of mobile phones on ships in European waters - briefing
The European Commission has adopted new rules to make it easier for passengers and crew on ships in the EU's territorial waters to make mobile phone calls or send and receive text messages when they are out of range of land-based mobile phone networks. The new rules harmonise the technical and legal conditions for on-board communication services and pave the way for innovative applications, such as remote monitoring of containers stored on-board. This brings new legal certainty and economic opportunities, for service providers who want to offer seamless maritime mobile connectivity across borders.

EC facilitates use of mobile phones on ships
The European Commission has adopted new rules to make it easier for passengers and crews on ships to use their mobile phones whilst in European waters.

Telecoms: 112 - Europe's single emergency number - briefing
To mark European 112 Day on February 11, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has written to EU Member States calling on them to intensify their efforts to raise awareness of Europe's single emergency number 112. While awareness has increased slightly, three out of four EU citizens still do not know they can call 112 in an emergency to contact the police, fire brigade or medical services, either from home or when travelling in the EU. Having the reflex to dial this 112 lifeline, which now works in all EU countries, could save lives and reduce injuries.

Instantly online - 17 golden rules to combat online risks and for safer surfing mobile social networks
The EU ‘cyber security’ Agency - ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) today presents a new report on accessing social networks over mobile phones, ‘Online as soon as it happens“. The report points out the risks and threats of mobile social networking services, e.g. identity theft, corporate data leakage and reputation risks of mobile social networks. The report also gives 17 ‘golden rules’ on how to combat these threats.

CASELEX:EU:2006:16 - IP Law -Works communicated by means of television sets installed in hotel rooms
This reference was made by the Audiencia Provincial de Barcelona (Spain) in the context of proceedings between the applicant, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores de España (SGAE) and the defendant, Rafael Hoteles SA (‘Rafael’), concerning the alleged infringement, by the latter, of intellectual property rights managed by SGAE.

Major contracts awarded to make Galileo operational early 2014 - briefing
The European Commission has announced the award of three of the six contracts for the procurement of Galileo’s initial operational capability. The contract for the system support services is awarded to ThalesAleniaSpace of Italy , that for a first order of 14 satellites to OHB System AG of Germany and that for the launch services to Arianespace of France. This will allow the initial deployment and service provision of Europe’s satellite navigation system as of early 2014.

Broadband access in the EU: situation at 1 July 2009
With more than 11 million new fixed lines laid in a year, the take up of broadband internet continues to grow in Europe. According to a report published by the European Commission, 24% of the EU population had a broadband access line subscription in July 2009, up from 21.6% in July 2008. The report also shows that mobile broadband is gaining momentum in Europe, with a 54% increase since January and now at a penetration rate of 4.2% per 100 citizens. Last but not least, broadband internet connections in Europe are increasingly faster. 80% of broadband lines in the EU now have download speeds of 2 megabits per second (Mbps) or greater (allowing the use of Web 2.0 and video streaming), which is 5% up from last year.

EU clean-up on ringtone scams - briefing
70% of websites investigated for mis-selling ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile phone services have been corrected or closed, following an 18 month EU consumer crackdown carried out by 27 Member States, Norway and Iceland. Since June 2008, when initial checks took place, 301 websites were investigated by national enforcement authorities for serious breaches of EU consumer law. 70% of the 301 cases investigated, have now been resolved. 52% (159 websites) have been corrected and 17% (54 websites) have closed. The three main problems found were: unclear pricing (for example, information was missing or incomplete); failure to provide complete trader information; and misleading advertising, in particular, advertising ringtones as "free" where the consumer is in fact tied into a paying subscription. In Italy, in February and May enforcement authorities, as a result of the sweep, imposed large fines of around 2 million Euro on 9 major companies found to be in breach of the law.

Agreement on EU Telecoms Reform - briefing
The European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers have reached agreement on the EU Telecoms Reform package, after intense negotiations brokered by the European Commission. The reform, proposed by the Commission in November 2007, substantially strengthens competition and consumer rights on Europe's telecoms markets, facilitates high-speed internet broadband connections to all Europeans and establishes a European Body of Telecoms Regulators to complete the single market for telecoms networks and services. Following the endorsement of the reform package by an overwhelming majority of the European Parliament in May this year, only one sub-paragraph had remained controversial between Parliament and Council: the degree to which access to the internet should, and could, be protected by EU law, as well as the procedural and judicial safeguards for internet users. After further talks, in a conciliation committee made up of representatives of the 27 EU Member States and an equal number of representatives from Parliament, the negotiators of Parliament, Council and Commission agreed last night – by unanimity – on a new internet freedom provision that will substantially strengthen the rights of internet users. The new internet freedom provision will be accompanied by new measures to reinforce the neutral character of the internet in Europe. Following final votes in Parliament and Council in November, these reforms could come into force in early 2010. EU countries will then have 18 months to incorporate the new provisions into their national legislation.

EU Digital Dividend proposals - briefing
As digital TV replaces analogue TV, four-fifths of the airwaves that used to carry TV broadcasts to our homes will be freed up. This means that they can be used for new, innovative services that use radio spectrum, from wireless internet and more advanced mobile phones to new interactive and high-definition TV channels. Remote regions could be big winners from this as wireless broadband could use the new spectrum to deliver high-speed internet to areas not yet reached by landlines. The European Commission today set out plans for a coordinated distribution of spectrum that encourages investment and competition in these potential new services. If the allocation of the newly freed airwaves – the "digital dividend" – to new services is coordinated across Europe it could give the economy a boost of €20 to €50 billion. The plan for the realisation of the digital dividend's full potential involves the European Parliament and EU countries, reflecting the major part they have to play.

Wireless broadband on GSM frequencies - briefing
The path has been cleared for a new generation of mobile services in Europe with the publication in the EU's Official Journal of new measures that allow 3G phones to use GSM frequencies. This follows the European Parliament and Council of Ministers' agreement, in July, to modernise European legislation – the GSM Directive – on the use of the radio spectrum needed for mobile services. The new EU measures will foster stronger competition on Europe's telecoms market and make it easier for operators to provide faster, pan-European services such as mobile internet alongside today's GSM services. They will also boost the roll-out of wireless broadband services, one of the drivers of the EU's economic recovery.

Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council
Since June 2002 these three policies have been placed under the sole responsibility of a single Council configuration which meets approximately every two months. The composition of the Council varies according to the items on the agenda (Ministers for Transport, Telecommunications or Energy).

State aid broadband guidelines
Community Guidelines for the application of State aid rules in relation to rapid deployment of broadband networks

Single European Information Space
The first objective of i2010 is to establish a Single European Information Space offering affordable and secure high-bandwidth communications, rich and diverse content and digital services. Action in this area combines regulatory and other instruments at the European Commission’s disposal to create a modern, market-oriented regulatory framework for the digital economy.