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Brussels, 9 December 2011
Digital Agenda: EU Telecoms Council: expected decision on radio spectrum to open the way for growth in the sector
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, will welcome the formal endorsement of legislation needed to make radio spectrum available for wireless broadband by 2013, at the EU's Council of Telecoms Ministers meeting in Brussels on 13th December. In addition Vice-President Kroes will present to the Council the Connecting Europe Facility (see MEMO/11/709) and an Open Data Strategy for Europe due to be adopted next week. During lunch the Ministers will discus the concept of universal service (see IP/11/1400) ensuring that the EU-wide rules play their proper part in bringing the benefits of the digital economy to people in Europe. Neelie Kroes will urge Ministers to adopt the new Roaming Regulation before the current Regulation expires at the end of June 2012. She will underline the importance of introducing structural measures to enhance competition as the best way to drive down prices in a durable way, while maintaining retail caps as a safety-net (see IP/11/835). Vice-President Kroes will also call for a strong European response on Internet security – one that is based on close co-operation between Member States and the EU level. She will also inform Ministers of the new strategy that will be put forward in the third quarter of 2012.
It is expected that the Council will agree on a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP - see MEMO/10/425). The Decision on RSPP will create a comprehensive EU spectrum policy programme until 2015 and will complete the Single Market, particularly in line with the Europe 2020 initiative and the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
The Spectrum programme will be a key to reaching the Digital Agenda targets for universal broadband coverage and broadband data speeds, which can help boost innovation and growth. Services which rely on radio spectrum represent 2% to 2.5 % of annual EU gross domestic product (DGP), i.e. more than €250 billion according to a study undertaken for the Commission. This includes the European wireless electronic communications industry which supports 3.5 million jobs, generates around €130 billion annually in tax revenues and contributes € 140 billion directly to European GDP.
Neelie Kroes will remind ministers that the programme will only be the beginning of common efforts in achieving important objectives in the coming years. The future steps in achieving these objectives are:
- allowing the use of the key 800 MHz band for the next generation of wireless communications (see IP/10/540);
- making sure that the authorisation process is completed by the end of 2012 for this band and the others bands already technically harmonised;
- creating a European spectrum inventory and a process to support the most efficient use of spectrum in the EU and determining the need for further harmonised spectrum for wireless broadband communications. This would also help to meet the target set in the RSPP of at least 1200 MHz of suitable spectrum to be identified by 2015 for mobile broadband services;
- guaranteeing competition in the use of spectrum in particular for electronic communications services;
- promoting more flexible spectrum management, and encouraging collective and shared use of spectrum;
- meeting needs for spectrum in EU policies in sectors such as transport, energy, earth observation, civil protection or the Internet of Things;
- enhancing EU coordination where necessary in international spectrum negotiations and supporting Member States in their negotiations with third countries if they so wish.
The radio spectrum proposal, together with a Broadband Communication and NGA Recommendation, is part of a package presented by the Commission in September 2010 to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe (IP/10/1142), one of the key targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
The Commission's proposal aims to tackle the root of the problem: the lack of competition in the roaming market. The proposal suggests a way forward on how to avoid perpetual price regulation. For this reason it contains structural remedies aimed at facilitating the entry of new players and increasing consumer choice. In practice, the objective is to give consumers the possibility to opt for an alternative, cheaper roaming deal, to be selected from a wider range of offers.
Neelie Kroes will express her commitment to examine different implementing solutions, provided they lead to easy choices for consumers and real competition. In particular, she will underline the need to allow implementing solutions which would deliver effective competition for all types of customers, including heavy data users. Moreover, she will stress that retail caps should be kept only as a safety-net, in order to allow competition to emerge for the long term benefit of European consumers. Any delay to the introduction of structural measures would also delay competition, having an adverse effect on lower prices and more consumer choice.
A key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe is to create a well functioning Single Market for telecoms services with the difference between roaming and national tariffs approaching zero by 2015.
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