The GSMA believes Europe passed up an opportunity to demonstrate 5G leadership, accusing regulators of failing to confront long term challenges in a shake-up of telecoms laws.

In a statement, the trade association said the Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which was agreed yesterday (5 June) by the European Parliament, Council and Commission represented a “political compromise” and “could hinder networks in Europe, weakening the region’s competitiveness and harming European citizens”.

European trade body ETNO was equally as negative, describing the ECC as a “missed opportunity” which will “not ignite the much-needed rush to invest in 5G and fibre networks and it will add complexity to an already burdensome system,” said ETNO.

The code was initially pitched by the European Commission (EC) in 2016, with the ambition of creating new policy to encourage companies to invest billions in 5G and fibre networks.

However, the industry expressed concerns at amendments in recent months, arguing the proposed changes ran contrary to the EU’s goals and effectively watered down its original aims.

In a statement, the EC said the code will “boost investments in very high capacity networks across the EU, including in remote and rural areas”.

Outlining the new rules, the Commission said the code will ensure availability of 5G spectrum by the end of 2020 and provide operators with at spectrum licences spanning at least 20 years: notably this falls short of the 25 years the industry wanted.

The code will also enable rollouts of new, high capacity fixed networks by promoting co-investment, encouraging network sharing and a specific regulatory regime for wholesale-only operators. Consumer protections include capping the cost of international calls within the EU at €0.19 per minute.

The GSMA said while progress had been made on some of aims, the ECC creates “investment uncertainty” because it “does not deliver sufficiently on the ambition to provide a strong, pro-investment regulatory reform”.

There is a “lack of harmonisation” because the reforms do not ensure meaningful convergence of spectrum awards across member states, and the code fails to deliver a level playing field, with the telecoms sector still “over regulated”. The measures on intra-EU calls are “unjustified”, given consumers and businesses enjoy a variety of choices for making calls to other EU countries.

“We are disappointed that this crucial opportunity – for citizens as well as for the 5G industry – was not fully grasped, and strongly believe in the need of a better deal for Europe’s global digital competitiveness,” said Afke Schaart, VP and head of Europe at the GSMA.