The CEOs of major operators including Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefonica warned the European Commission (EC) that proposed changes to key pieces of legislation could go against its vision for a single digital market and threaten 5G investment.

In a letter seen by Financial Times (FT), operator chiefs warned the commission of potential pitfalls relating to proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Code and ePrivacy Regulation.

CEO’s from BT, Telecom Italia, KPN, Telenor and Telia, among others, signed the letter, which stated the “initial strategic focus on investment and innovation appears lost”, with current developments now putting the industry’s future plans at risks.

The CEOs further noted other regions of the world “are out investing Europe two-to-one in digital networks”.

“This should be a reason for alarm and action, especially in the context of global competition and fast paced technological change.”

The letter also issued a rallying cry to ministers, urging them to “save the 5G project”.

Political resistance
EC plans to introduce a unified approach for 5G by harmonising spectrum regulation met with opposition from telecoms ministers in a number of EU member states, who want to retain control of spectrum licensing and auction processes.

The proposals also face opposition from members of the European Parliament, who are concerned deregulation could hinder competition.

Plans to deregulate the market are included in the Electronic Communications Code unveiled by EC president Jean-Claude Juncker during his State of the Union speech in September 2016. The code aimed to introduce “forward looking and simplified” rules to make investment in infrastructure at local and national levels more attractive.

Around the same time, the commission began considering plans to amend the EU ePrivacy directive to include all communications service providers rather than just telecoms companies.

Investment risk
In the letter, the operator chiefs also hit out at plans to regulate the price of international calling – a move added to the Electronic Communications Code – arguing it could impact profits.

The CEOs argued such a hit on earnings would undermine efforts to make investments in new fibre networks and 5G, which they are being pushed to make by the EC.

The sector estimates implementing the commission’s plan will cost €660 billion, FT reported, but implementing unexpected price regulation would not be in line with the EC’s wider plan to introduce a digital single market.