EU Proposes New Telecom Rules, Scraps Roaming Time Limit

EU Proposes New Telecom Rules, Scraps Roaming Time Limit

"We need to be connected. Our economy needs it. People need it. And we have to invest in that connectivity now." – President Juncker, State of the Union 2016.

Last month we wrote about the 5G coverage by 2025.

The success of emerging technologies like e-commerce, e-health applications, VR and IoT depends on the quality and investment in future connectivity. Speaking at the 2016 State of the Union address, President Juncker said the new initiatives would help Europe meet its growing connectivity needs and boost competitiveness.

CONNECTIVITY

President Juncker outlined three connectivity objectives that should be met by 2025. The first objective seeks to bridge the connectivity divide between rural and urban areas. It requires all European households, regardless of location, to have access to download speeds of at least 100 Mbps, which can be upgraded to Gbps.

The second objective relates specifically to the roll out of 5G connectivity. Under the proposal, all urban areas as well as major roads and railways should have uninterrupted 5G coverage by 2025. Serving as an interim target, the EC proposes that 5G should be commercially available in at least one major city in each EU Member State by 2020.

The final objective requires all main socio-economic drivers - such as schools, universities, transport hubs and providers of public services such as hospitals - to have access to a minimum of 1Gbps broadband.

The commission estimates that €500 billion will need to be spent over the next decade to reach these targets. However, President Juncker acknowledged that current investment trends indicate there could be as much as a €155 billion investment shortfall.

In an effort to stimulate competition and close this investment gap, the EC has proposed an update of the current EU telecom and copyright rules.

TELECOM RULES

The proposed changes to the EU telecoms and copyright rules are aimed at boosting revenues for the telecoms industry and media publishers. However, they have been met with considerable opposition from member states, digital rights activists and companies across a wide range of industries.

Up until now, companies like Facebook and Microsoft have fallen outside the EU Commission’s regulation of the telecoms industry. This means they’ve had complete control over who could access their consumer data, unlike telecoms providers.

Under the proposed changes, security rules covering wiretapping and confidentiality protections would be extended to cover web applications like Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp. This would restrict the services from providing end-to-end encryption, which Facebook recently rolled out for its mobile messaging service.

Elsewhere, the EC has proposed rules that would force online video-sharing platforms such as Google’s YouTube to pay musicians and other artists a fairer share of revenues. However, media licensing rights groups said the proposals do not go far enough in ensuring compensation for producers of film, television, multimedia and music content.

DATA ROAMING

This week, the European Commission proposed scrapping time limits to its abolition of mobile phone roaming charges. As it stood, consumers would be allowed to roam up to 90 days per year and for a maximum of 30 consecutive days, while paying only their domestic prices. The plan received widespread criticism.

Vice-President Andrus Ansip has told a news conference that there will no longer be a formal limit on surcharge-free roaming when the rules come into force next year.

Many will question the timing of the announcement, amid backlash over the proposed telecom changes.

CONCLUSION

The new connectivity initiatives, along with the updates to the telecoms and copyright rules, are part of the Commission's plans to create a Digital Single Market (DSM).  However, the proposal will undoubtedly be contested over the coming months, and will most likely be altered before it becomes law.

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