TCS Daily

EU Phone Home

By Jeremy Slater - January 30, 2003 12:00 AM

The last thing the telecoms industry needs now is any more EU legislation, according to policymakers and industrialists at a recent debate on the issue in Brussels. The Friends of Europe think tank sponsored the event, where participants considered how the sector could drag itself out of the doldrums it has inhabited since the Internet bubble burst in 2000.

Fabio Colasanti is director-general of the European Commission's Information Society department and is the chief administrator in charge of EU telecoms policy. He said current economic policy is not helping the industry. The emphasis on controlling inflation, he argued, does not make it easy for companies to reduce their debt mountains.

"It is therefore up to policymakers to discover what the public sector can do to help by analysing the regulatory framework and what can be done at a European or member state level to improve employment and investment in the industry," he said.

The Commission had previously pinpointed two new sources of revenue for the sector: the growth in data services and expansion of third-generation mobile telephony or '3G'. But Colasanti admitted that the supply of broadband services was lacking in national markets and member states should do more to promote competition. He also said that with 3G Brussels must "make sure regulation does not hamper network expansion". The Commission should also allow cooperation between companies in setting up networks necessary for this service.

From an industry point of view current European legislation is about right, according to Clive Ansell, group strategy director for British Telecom. It allows for competition in the marketplace and has produced the right regulatory checks and balances. Ansell has more concerns about the legal framework at national level.

"There is scope for new thinking by national regulators in which they use competition laws to enable the market to operate rather than micromanaging the industry," he said.

Nick Clegg, a Liberal party member of the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, External Trade, Research and Energy, opened his speech by identifying three stages of development within the European telecoms market. The first was the use of regulation to "reduce bottlenecks within the market", such as local-loop unbundling, which allowed other companies to compete against the national incumbent. The second was a move from sectoral legislation to horizontal legislation and the third was a halt to further regulation.

"One would suggest the last thing the industry now needed was more legislation," he said. "The perennial flaw of Parliament is that we breezily create legislation without thinking how this will be implemented."

He also warned that the "jury is still out on whether the EU's various individual national regulation authorities could compare notes and create convergence within the telecoms field".

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