European operator and equipment vendor chiefs argued the industry would be better off keeping current regulations than introducing a watered down version of a plan designed to boost investment in next-generation networks.
The heads of 30 companies including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, BT, Telefonica, Ericsson and Nokia said proposed changes to the European Electronic Communications Code were “bad news”, in the latest attack on European Parliament amendments to the plan.
In a joint letter to European government leaders and telecoms ministers, the group argued parliament’s changes remove the stability required to spur investment in 5G and fibre infrastructure, Financial Times (FT) reported.
The target of the group’s ire are European Parliament calls to increase the power of national regulators and greater scrutiny of so-called oligopolies. When parliament proposed the changes earlier this month, telecoms companies warned they run contrary to European Union goals to establish a single digital market across the region.
Operators and vendors had broadly backed the European Commission’s (EC) update of telecoms and competition rules first proposed in 2016, amid a push to reinvigorate the industry, FT noted.
The EC proposed modernising current regulations in a bid to bridge an expected €155 billion shortfall in the €500 billion investment required to meet its connectivity targets. The plan would have seen a substantial reduction in regulation covering joint infrastructure investments by operators; a move which could enable smaller companies to participate in large-scale deployments they may not otherwise be able to afford.
A key element of the plan would see internet and over-the-top service providers covered by the same regulations as operators, levelling a playing field telecoms companies argue is currently skewed in favour of companies which reap the benefit of operators’ hefty infrastructure investments by using the networks without paying appropriate fees.
Other changes include extending the term of spectrum licences (providing operators with a better opportunity to recoup investment in the licence and networks) and stricter controls on efficient spectrum use. The EC also aimed to boost investment in areas which offer less potential for return on investment, including rural or sparsely populated areas.
The group sent its letter ahead of a meeting of European government leaders next week, FT reported.
It is the latest in a string of scathing criticism of the European Parliament’s proposed changes to the code.
The topic was a major theme during the GSMA’s Mobile 360 Europe event in Brussels this week. In a presentation, Orange deputy CEO Pierre Louette slammed the “same old story” being seen in the plans to water down the code, and explained operators “need signals to incentivise us to invest as much as we do, and plan to”.
Markus Borchert, SVP of market Europe at Nokia, warned the region needed “bold decisions to accelerate investment, reform regulation and promote digitisation”. Without such moves, Europe risked becoming a “consumer, not creator” of new technologies, he warned.