THIRD GENERATION MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
Commission Communication on the introduction of third-generation mobile communications in the European Union: state of play and the way forward.
||20 March 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||22 March 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||12 April 2001|
||Trade and Industry|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 20 June 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||Transport and Telecommunications Council 4-5 April 2001
||Not cleared; information on progress requested
The Commission Communication
16.1 The Commission briefly takes stock of the
state of play in the assignment of third generation (3G) mobile
communications licences in the EU, taking into account the regulatory
environment, the financial context, outstanding technical issues,
and the development of new markets as mobile communications increasingly
allow data services. It says in its introduction that in this
document it is not aiming to cover the full range of topics related
to the introduction of advanced mobile data services in the EU,
such as the social implications, the protection of users or the
legal issues relating to content. It focusses instead on some
regulatory and technical issues which it describes as critical
to the success in the EU of 3G technology, the system which will
allow the introduction of these new services. It notes that the
majority of Member States have now granted 3G licenses.
The Commission's proposals for action
16.2 The Communication sets out three areas in
which the Commission suggests that action should be taken at EU
level to facilitate a successful rollout of 3G services in the
Section (i): Getting the future regulatory framework
16.3 Referring back to the 1999 Communications
Review package currently under negotiation, and in particular
to the proposals for a Framework Directive
and for a Decision on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum
policy in the European Community (the Spectrum Decision),
the Commission says that it is confident that these measures will
help to reduce differences in licensing procedures and licensing
conditions in the future, and thus avoid such fragmentation as
is happening now.
Section (ii): Support from existing Community
16.4 The Commission proposes that the Community
fully exploit the potential which already exists to support the
evolution of future digital wireless services, for instance in
the European Research Area and eEurope Action Plan programmes.
Section (iii): Dealing with emerging regulatory
16.5 The Commission seeks to launch a Community-wide
discussion on a range of regulatory issues that have arisen, in
different Member States at different times, in connection with
the conditions of 3G licences already assigned, as a consequence
of the increasingly heavy financial burden on the telecoms operators.
It says that most of the issues are common to all Member States
and that national authorities are faced with the same type of
questions. It considers that there is a risk of "yet increased
fragmentation of the regulatory environment". Key issues
to be addressed relate to the possibility of changing licence
conditions, for instance on rollout obligations and duration,
and whether or not network infrastructure sharing might be permissible.
The Commission takes a positive attitude in principle to infrastructure
sharing because of its potential economic gains, but on condition
that Community law and the competition rules are respected.
The Government's view
16.6 In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 20 June,
the Minister for eCommerce and Competitiveness (Mr Douglas Alexander)
by the Commission on the assignment modalities for licences are
being considered separately in the context of negotiations on
the new regulatory framework for electronic communications networks
and services. There, the UK has expressed strong objections to
the Commission's proposals for harmonising assignment methods
in the Framework Directive and in the Spectrum Decision on legal,
economic and political grounds. (In the latest text of the Spectrum
Decision this proposal has been dropped.) In its political agreement
on a common position on the proposed Framework Directive, reached
at the 4-5 April Transport and Telecommunications Council, the
Council rejected the Commission's proposal that it be able to
overrule such decisions by national regulatory authorities that
it considered incompatible with Community law.
"The Government supports the proposals to exploit
fully the 6th Framework Programme and the eEurope Action
Plan to facilitate the timely roll out of 3G networks and services,
particularly programmes such as: EContent for multilingual and
customised European content; Go Digital for supporting SMEs with
advice and best practice; [and the] Skills Task Force.
"On the key regulatory issues raised in Section
" changes to licence conditions.
The UK Government sees no merit in changing 3G licence conditions
e.g. deployment obligations, licence duration.
" network infrastructure sharing.
Oftel posted on its website on 1 May a statement, agreed jointly
with DTI and the Radiocommunications Agency, on the scope for
infrastructure sharing agreements in the UK. The licences issued
under the Telecommunications and Wireless Telegraphy Acts do not
a priori exclude infrastructure sharing. Some forms of
infrastructure sharing are positively encouraged (mast sharing).
However, any individual proposal for infrastructure sharing would
need to be assessed on the detail of the commercial arrangement
and its consequences for consumers, which would be subject to
general competition law."
16.7 The Minister says that his Department and
OFTEL have been liaising closely with industry over the rollout
of 3G services in the UK.
16.8 The 1999 Communications Review and the
proposals, both regulatory and non-regulatory, which have since
been submitted to us for scrutiny form a body of work of considerable
importance to the UK telecoms industry, and to the economy as
a whole. The areas covered are specialised, but the Government
has sought to keep us fully informed of the issues and its concerns
as the relevant documents have been submitted, or by letter to
inform us of progress.
16.9 European Standing Committee C debated
the implementation of the telecommunications regulatory package
and radio spectrum policy in February 2000,
but we believe it would be helpful to us if, in the autumn, the
Minister were to give us a general account of the work in hand
under the eEurope Action Plan, of progress on the various proposals
arising from the 1999 Communications Review, on a number of which
the Council has now reached political agreement on a Common Position,
and on the Government's view of what further action it would be
appropriate to take at EU level, taking into account the suggestions
for further action made by the Commission in the document we consider
16.10 Meanwhile, we shall not clear this document.
26 The draft Directive for a common regulatory framework
for electronic communications networks and service; see (21562)
10962/00: HC 28-x (2000-01), paragraph 10 (28 March 2001). Back
11117/00; see paragraph 15 of this Report. Back
Report, European Standing
Committee B, 16 February 2000. Back