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Europe urges telecoms single market €260 billion opportunity

Andrus Ansep is worried about division on telecoms single market plans

European Commission (EC) VP Andrus Ansip has said creating a digital single market across the 28 EU member states will benefit Europe by €260 billion a year, “potentially more”, as he put it. He claimed it is vital, and crucially depends on forming a telecoms single market first as a basis.

The EC says it is driving the unification of the European telecoms and digital markets in order to make life easier, more efficient and provide more opportunities to businesses and consumers alike.

The EC first embarked upon this plan of creating a telecoms single market in September 2013, and the European parliament’s industry and research committee voted for it earlier this year

The package includes the abolition of roaming rates within the EU, pan-European spectrum and consumer rights harmonisation, protection of net neutrality and simpler rules across the EU to enable companies to invest more and cross borders with their offerings.

The telecoms single market package is now in its final stage of negotiations, but Ansip said he is not entirely happy with the direction talks have lately taken.

“I know this Parliament agrees with the ambitious plan to achieve a truly connected digital single market, as can be seen in your resolution and your support for the telecoms single market package,” Ansip said. “But I am worried about the direction that the telecoms single market negotiations have taken in the council, where member states are divided.”

According to Ansip the digital single market, which he is in charge of, cannot be achieved without first having the telecoms single market in place. “The telecoms single market is an essential building block of the digital single market,” he said.

“Without it, we cannot achieve the rest. The European council asked for it in October 2013, and tomorrow, in the telecoms council, member states need to be ambitious and take a decisive step towards achieving it. What kind of digital single market would we build without decent solutions on roaming, net neutrality and, more importantly, on spectrum?”

Spectrum harmonisation is also on the mobile industry association’s agenda, although it wants to see this on a global scale, not just across one world region. GSMA’s Policy Officer John Giuti recently told Telecoms.com: “In today’s world even markets that have historically gone on their own… are seeing the benefits of being harmonised and seeing the benefits of what is really an international process,”. It’s really key that we don’t just look at individual markets but that we work globally. And that globally we use [spectrum] bands that have flexibility in many markets to release.”

From a consumer’s point of view, the plans to abolish roaming charges and make online shopping across borders less expensive sounds all good. On the other hand, operators have not been too excited about some of the plans as after all, they are already under a lot of pressure of finding growth to make up for dwindling revenues from traditional sources, including calls and texting.


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