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EU Telecoms Policy

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

116000 EU missing children hotline - briefing
Two years ago, the European Commission reserved the number 116000 as a common missing children telephone hotline for the entire EU and called on Member States to get it up and running. While last year, the 116000 number was only working in Hungary, after repeated calls from the Commission, all EU Member States have today made the number publicly available to hotline providers. The number has also been assigned to service providers in nine Member States, compared to seven last year. 116000 is now a working service in five countries (Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania). It will also be functioning soon in two further countries (Belgium and Slovakia). After having closely monitored that 116000 is reserved by EU countries, as required under EU law, the Commission now calls once again on Member States to support and guide would-be 116000 hotline operators so that parents and children can call 116000 when they need it, everywhere in Europe.

Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly-Identified Health Risks
The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly-Identified Health Risks - SCENIHR - provides opinions on questions concerning emerging or newly identified risks and on broad, complex or multidisciplinary issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of risks to consumer safety or public health and related issues not covered by other Community risk assessment bodies. Examples of potential areas of activity include potential risks associated with interaction of risk factors, synergic effects, cumulative effects, antimicrobial resistance, new technologies such as nanotechnologies, medical devices including those incorporating substances of animal and/or human origin, tissue engineering, blood products, fertility reduction, cancer of endocrine organs, physical hazards such as noise and electromagnetic fields (from mobile phones, transmitters and electronically controlled home environments), and methodologies for assessing new risks.

Commission earmarks EUR 1bn for investment in broadband - briefing
The European Commission aims to achieve 100 per cent high-speed internet coverage for all citizens by 2010 as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan. EUR 1 billion has been earmarked today to help rural areas get online, bring new jobs and help businesses grow. On average, 93 per cent of Europeans can enjoy a high speed online connection but in some countries broadband covers less than half of the rural population. Broadband internet connection is expected to create 1 million jobs and boost the EU's economy by EUR 850 billion between 2006 and 2015.

Scope of the Universal Service in Telecoms: 2008 EC report
How can the EU ensure broadband Internet access for all Europeans? This is the main question raised in a European Commission report today. From 2003-2007 broadband use in the EU tripled to 36% of households. However, 7% of the EU's population are still not connected (30% in rural areas). There are striking gaps in the EU: 100% of the population is covered in Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium, but more than 60% in Romania (75% in rural areas) do not have broadband access. Even in strong economies such as Italy and Germany, 18% and 12% respectively of the rural population are not covered. With broadband increasingly important in daily life, policy tools like radio spectrum management and mobile satellite services should accompany a broad debate about the universal service in telecoms – a safety net guaranteeing a minimum level of services, such as connection to a phone network and basic Internet access, filling basic needs that the market does not.

Roaming: No More Nasty Surprises
Will we soon see the end of unpleasant surprises on mobile bills after travelling abroad? Possibly.

Next Generation Access networks in Europe - briefing
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the regulatory principles to be applied by EU Member States to Next Generation Access broadband networks (NGA). NGA optical fibre-based networks enable bitrates several times higher than those currently available on traditional copper wire networks. NGAs are required to deliver high-definition content (such as high definition television) and interactive applications. The objective of a common regulatory framework for NGA is to foster a consistent treatment of operators in the EU and thereby ensure the necessary regulatory predictability to invest. The Commission is consulting on the basis of a draft Recommendation, addressed to the regulators in the 27 EU Member States and suggesting definitions for harmonized categories of regulated services, access conditions, rates of return and appropriate risk premiums. The public consultation will be open until 14th November 2008. The Commission will then finalise the Recommendation in the light of comments received and formally adopt it in 2009.

Mobile Satellite Services in Europe - briefing
A competition for providers of communication services via satellite across Europe was launched on 7 August by the European Commission. Satellite operators will for the first time be able to offer services such as high speed data, mobile TV, disaster relief and remote medical services under a single European selection procedure instead of under 27 different national systems. This is made possible by a new EU decision on mobile satellite services that entered into force this July. Mobile satellite systems use radio spectrum to provide services between a mobile earth station and one or more stations either in space or on the ground at fixed locations. They have the capability to cover a large territory and reach areas where such services were economically unviable before. The new European selection procedure could allow companies to offer innovative wireless services throughout Europe over a specifically reserved spectrum as of 2009.

EU crackdown of ringtone scams - guide
The European Commission announced on 17 July the results of an EU-wide investigation into websites offering mobile phone services such as ring-tones and wallpapers. The enquiry, which was carried out on more than 500 websites across the 27 EU Member States, Norway and Iceland, found that 80% of the sites checked need to be further investigated for suspected breaches of EU consumer rules. Many of the websites target children and young people. Problems found included: unclear price information where prices are incomplete did not include taxes or customers are unaware that they are signing up to a subscription. Large numbers of websites do not provide some of the required contact information about the trader. Other problems relate to misleading information where key information is hidden in very small print or hard to find on a website or the word "free" is used to mislead consumers into a long-term contracts. The breaches vary in the degree of seriousness. More than 495 million mobile phones are owned by Europeans. Ring-tones alone were estimated to make up 29% of the overall "mobile content" market in Europe in 2007 (about 10% higher than 2006). The value of European ring-tone sales in 2007 was estimated at EUR 691 million. Seven countries Norway, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Iceland, Romania, Greece) are publishing the names of the websites which they found to have irregularities.

Mobile roaming in the EU
For a decade, the EU has worked to reduce the surcharges that telecoms operators imposed on their customers each time they crossed a border while using their mobile device on holiday or during business trips. Since 2007, roaming prices have decreased by more than 90 per cent. In 2015, and based on a proposal of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to end roaming charges for people who travel periodically in the EU. "Roam like at Home" - where customers pay domestic prices, irrespective of where they are travelling in the EU - will become a reality for all European travellers by June 2017.

High price of SMS & data roaming in the EU - guide
The 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU cost over 10 times more than domestic short messages (SMS), show figures released on 15 July by the European Commission. The average cost of a roaming text message in the EU between October 2007 and March 2008 was EUR 0.29 according to the European Regulators’ Group (ERG), but can be as high as EUR 0.80 for travellers from Belgium. Calls on the industry for self-regulation and voluntary reductions of roaming prices for text messages have not been answered. The Commission therefore says it will start working on measures to ensure that consumers benefit from a truly single market for mobile text services. The Commission will also seek to put an end to "bill shocks" that can hit roaming customers using a mobile connection to surf the Internet. New measures could be proposed by the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council in early autumn.

EU Roaming Regulation - guide
30 June 2008 was the anniversary of the EU Roaming Regulation, which entered into force on 30 June 2007. Since then, the introduction of the Eurotariff has led to savings of up to 60% for consumers using their mobile phone to make and receive calls abroad within the EU (roaming). They will benefit from further reductions by 30 August as prices will be capped at €0.46 for making calls and €0.22 for receiving calls for the coming year. The European Commission is now assessing whether there have been satisfactory developments in the prices of data roaming (including SMS and MMS) before deciding on whether the Regulation needs to be extended to also cover these services. A deadline set by Commissioner Reding in February to the mobile industry for voluntary reductions of roaming prices for text messages and mobile data services expires today, close of business.

Mobile phone termination rates - guide
With the aim of spurring competition among operators and lower phone charges for European consumers, the European Commission on 26 June 2008 started a public consultation on the future regulation of "voice call termination rates" in the EU based on a draft Commission Recommendation on termination rates. Voice call termination rates are the wholesale tariffs charged by the operator of a customer receiving a phone call to the operator of the caller's network. Included in everyone's phone bill, and therefore eventually paid by the consumer, these tariffs are determined by the intervention of national telecoms regulators. At the moment the decisions of the national telecoms regulators result in very divergent rates across the EU. Mobile termination rates range from EUR 0.02/min (in Cyprus) to over EUR 0.18/min (in Bulgaria) and are 9 times higher than fixed line termination rates (on average EUR 0.0057/min for local call termination). This distorts competition between operators from different countries and between fixed line and mobile phone operators. The public consultation on this proposal will be open until 3 September 2008.

Pilot on eHealth indicators
Pilot on eHealth indicators: 'Benchmarking ICT use among General Practitioners in Europe' final report - the European Commission on 25 April published a pan-European survey on electronic services in healthcare (eHealth) that shows 87% of European doctors (General Practitioners) use a computer, 48% with a broadband connection. European doctors increasingly store and send patients' data such as lab reports electronically. In using such eHealth applications, doctors and medical services have already improved healthcare in Europe through, for example, more efficient administration and shorter waiting times for patients. The report also highlights where doctors could make better use of ICT to offer services such as telemonitoring, electronic prescriptions and cross border medical services.

13th Progress Report on the Single European Telecoms Market 2007 - guide
Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden are world leaders in broadband deployment with penetration rates over 30 per cent at the end of 2007, says the European Commission’s 13th Progress Report on the Single Telecoms Market issued on 19 March 2008. These EU countries, together with the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, all had broadband penetration rates higher than the US (22.1 per cent) in July 2007. 19 million broadband lines were added in the EU in 2007, the equivalent of more than 50,000 households every day. The broadband sector generated estimated revenues of EUR 62 billion and Europe’s overall penetration reached 20 per cent. However, there is considerable scope for further consumer benefits from a reinforced single market, strengthened competition and reduced regulatory burden for market players.

Private and Public Enterprise in Europe: Energy, Telecommunications and Transport, 1830-1990 (Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series)
The first comparative history of the economic organisation of energy, telecommunications and transport in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It examines the role that private and public enterprise have played in the construction and operation of the railways, electricity, gas and water supply, tramways, coal, oil and natural gas industries, telegraph, telephone, computer networks and other modern telecommunications. The book begins with the arrival of the railways in the 1830s, charts the development of arms' length regulation, municipalisation and nationalisation, and ends on the eve of privatisation in the 1980s. Robert Millward argues that the role of ideology, especially in the form of debates about socialism and capitalism, has been exaggerated. Instead the driving forces in changes in economic organisation were economic and technological factors and the book traces their influence in shaping the pattern of regulation and ownership of these key sectors of modern economies.

Infringement proceedings under EU telecoms rules - guide
The European Commission's new round of infringement proceedings under the EU telecoms rules: What are the issues?

Eurotariff rates: benchmarks
According to the Roaming Regulation, mobile operators should have offered customers a Eurotariff by 30 July 2007. This tariff shall be activated no later than one month after the receipt of the customer's request. Roaming charges should not exceed €0.49 for making calls and €0.24 for receiving calls abroad (excluding VAT).

EU Telecoms: Article 7 procedure, role of Commission and impact of the EU Telecoms Reform - guide
The European Court of Auditors' 2006 Annual Report, punlished on 13 November 2007, identified some improvements, particularly in agricultural spending, although errors of legality and regularity still persist in the majority of EU expenditure due to weaknesses in internal control systems both at the European Commission and in EU Member States.

Texts of EU Telecoms Reform proposal
On 13 November 2007 the European Commission adopted proposals for a reform of the EU telecoms rules. With the reform, the Commission wants to enable citizens, wherever they live and wherever they travel in the EU, to benefit from better and cheaper communication services, whether they use mobile phones, fast broadband internet connections or cable TV. To achieve this, the Commission proposes strengthening consumer rights; giving consumers more choice by reinforcing competition between telecoms operators; promoting investment into new communication infrastructures, in particular by freeing radio spectrum for wireless broadband services; and making communication networks more reliable and more secure, especially in case of viruses and other cyber-attacks. A new European Telecom Market Authority will support the Commission and national telecoms regulators in ensuring that market rules and consumer regulation are applied consistently, independently and without protectionism in all 27 EU Member States. To become law, the Commission proposals will now need to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.

EU Telecoms Reform package 2007 - Frequently Asked Questions
The European Commission on 13 November 2007 adopted proposals for a reform of the EU telecoms rules. With the reform, the Commission wants to enable citizens, wherever they live and wherever they travel in the EU, to benefit from better and cheaper communication services, whether they use mobile phones, fast broadband internet connections or cable TV. To achieve this, the Commission proposes strengthening consumer rights; giving consumers more choice by reinforcing competition between telecoms operators; promoting investment into new communication infrastructures, in particular by freeing radio spectrum for wireless broadband services; and making communication networks more reliable and more secure, especially in case of viruses and other cyber-attacks. A new European Telecom Market Authority will support the Commission and national telecoms regulators in ensuring that market rules and consumer regulation are applied consistently, independently and without protectionism in all 27 EU Member States. To become law, the Commission proposals will now need to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers.

Reform of EU Telecom Rules
Electronic communication is a true success story for the EU. Since national telecoms markets were opened up to competition in 1998, users and consumers have benefited from more choice, lower prices and innovative products and services. It is this success story of open markets and enhanced competition in the telecoms sector that the Commission intends to continue with the reform of EU's telecommunications rules of 2002.

Revision of the EU Financial Framework 2007-2013 - Q&A
The European Commission on 19 September adopted a Communication to ensure that the European satellite radionavigation programmes (EGNOS and Galileo) continue, together with an amended Regulation on the funding of the programmes. The proposal provides for the deployment phase of Galileo to be funded entirely from the Community budget to ensure that the project continues.

Benchmarking of EU mobile operators
According to the EU Roaming Regulation, mobile operators should have offered customers a Eurotariff by 30 July 2007. This tariff shall be activated no later than one month after the receipt of the customer's request. Roaming charges should not exceed EUR 0.49 for making calls and EUR 0.24 for receiving calls abroad (excluding VAT).

EU radio spectrum policy
Radio spectrum is the essential natural resource for wireless connections and innovation in Europe. It underpins wireless communications like Wi-Fi or mobile phones, but is also key to areas like transport, broadcasting, public safety, research, environmental protection, and energy. But radio spectrum is a finite resource, and the devices that use it can easily cross borders: so using it best needs effective and efficient coordination at European level.

EU Strategy for Mobile TV - Frequently Asked Questions
The convergence of broadcasting, telecommunications and the Internet is creating exciting new opportunities for consumers. The European Commission is strongly committed to the success of Mobile TV and presented today in Brussels its "Communication on Strengthening the Internal Market for Mobile TV". This Commission Communication is the blueprint for a European strategy for mobile TV and identifies the key success factors in this promising industry.