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Brussels, 30 January 2003

Commission holds hearing on interoperability and open platforms for digital television and 3G mobile communications

The European Commission will hold a public hearing on 4 February on a working report on remaining barriers to the achievement of widespread access to new services and applications of the Information Society through open platforms in digital television and 3G mobile communications. The report examines technology affecting access to electronic services by citizens. The hearing will take place at the Charlemagne building of the European Commission, room S4, between 10.00 am and 1.30 pm. Commissioner Liikanen will deliver the introductory speech. Journalists are invited to participate upon registration to:

The Commission wants to hear whether its analysis is shared by consumers and market players. The creation of open platforms has already been endorsed at EU level. Open platforms provide freedom of choice for access to applications and services of the Information Society over various platforms to different end-user terminals.

Openness of platforms depends on the interoperability of different services offered by different service providers which in turn depends on whether third parties can access the software that underpins application program interfaces (APIs). These APIs allow the software of an application (such as an SMS) to interact with the system software and hardware in an end-user device (such as a mobile handset). Third parties require access to the technical specifications of APIs to develop interoperable applications and to operate them over different platforms. Without open APIs between networks and services, it is possible for platforms using proprietary API standards to bundle all the elements of electronic services and, if the proprietary technology is unavailable to third parties, to lock in the customer to both the platform and its bundled services, thereby reducing choice.

As regards interactive digital television, the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services encourages open APIs as well as interoperability of services and equipment and charges the Commission with examining how well interoperability of digital TV services has been achieved by 2004. The mobile industry is currently working towards service interoperability in relation to the deployment of 3G services. The report concludes that technical barriers do not at present warrant any regulatory initiative. However, there is a need to press ahead on national and European programmes, such as the eEurope 2005 Action Plan. The Commission intends to present a formal communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the Committee of the Regions and Economic and Social Committee once the public consultation which runs to 15 February 2003 - is concluded.


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