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Legal framework for mobile TV
This communication presents examples of Member States’ regulatory best practice for mobile TV networks and services. It covers the authorisation models for such networks and services, as well as particular issues related to the different levels of the regulatory regime.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 10 December 2008 – Legal Framework for Mobile TV Networks and Services: Best Practice for Authorisation – The EU Model [COM(2008) 845 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication follows on from that of 2007 on the strengthening of the internal market for mobile TV, which highlighted the importance of the regulatory environment in the take-up of such services. It provides examples of best practice on national regulatory approaches to mobile TV networks and services.
Since launching its mobile TV initiative, the Commission has published overviews of the existing regulatory landscape in Europe with regular updates. This fact-finding exercise showed that Member States have taken very differing approaches to mobile TV. Consequently, the Telecommunications Council of November 2007 requested that the Commission take a more active role and proceed with identifying best practice on authorisation regimes for mobile TV and guiding the national adoption thereof.
When the Commission launched its mobile TV initiative in July 2007, only a few Member States had started addressing regulatory issues. To date, some Member States have still not established a regulatory framework for mobile TV networks and services, while others intend to extend the application of the general broadcasting regime to mobile TV broadcasting. In any case, the Commission is stressing the importance of avoiding situations of regulatory uncertainty. Furthermore, due to the wireless nature of mobile TV and hence the possible cross-border characteristic that it may acquire in the future, the authorisation regimes should also consider the internal market dimension. It is essential that the national regulatory approaches be as consistent as possible, without dismissing the local specificities.
Currently, the European mobile TV market is characterised by three main regulatory models that define the licensed operator’s rights as well as obligations:
- extension of existing Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) rules; however, this might not suffice eventually;
- the “plain wholesale model”, where spectrum is assigned to a single operator may raise concerns under the competition directive, in particular if the assignment is made without an open and fair procedure under non-discriminatory rules;
- the “integrated approach”, which in the Commission’s opinion seems to best suit the launch of the mobile TV service since it will involve all relevant market players.
The regulatory regime for mobile TV services should be conceived in such a way that any undue impediments or delays are avoided. The role of regulation should be to provide minimum standards, which will guarantee the efficient use of frequencies. The central elements to consider in the regulatory regime are the:
- general framework, which should be clear, transparent and adaptable to new developments. The authorisation procedures should be efficient and open to all market players so that a level playing field is guaranteed. Similarly, a timely legislative process needs to be ensured. In order to tailor regulation to the needs of the market, Member States should put in place public consultation mechanisms. At the same time, regular reporting by public authorities on market developments is considered best practice, so that appropriate propositions can be made if the existing rules need to be adapted accordingly.
- authorisation regimes, which should be clear and transparent. To this end, the relationship between e-communications, spectrum and content rules should be clearly defined. Furthermore, the granting of authorisations should be centralised through a “one-stop-shop” to provide for a simplified and coordinated procedure.
- award procedures that should be public, transparent and well defined, and for which a clear schedule should be put in place ahead of the commercial trials of mobile TV services. The award criteria should insist on quality of service, optimal use of spectrum and collaboration among the market players. The criteria should be applied in an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory manner, with due consideration given to competition rules.
- specific aspects, which should not impose any unnecessary burdens on operators. For example, “must-carry” rules are not appropriate at this stage of mobile TV service development; however, Member States should organise discussions on “must offer” rules. At the same time, network infrastructure sharing and co-location should be encouraged, while the issues concerning interoperability and roaming should also be taken into consideration.
To further guarantee the effectiveness of the regulatory practices relating to mobile TV, the Commission aims to continue promoting the exchange of best practice between national administrators and the relevant market players.