Redesigning the European telecoms market
Debate at the European Parliament on co-investissement in optical fibre networks
Redesigning the European telecoms market
At the request of certain stakeholders - including some of the incumbent operators, unhappy about the fall in sales in the telecoms sector and the delays in investment on mobile and fixed broadband networks - the Commission has decided to look into modernising the regulatory framework in order to foster positive change within the European telecoms industry.
Based on the assumption that the current framework does not permit the advent of a single market and that the European telecoms market is too fragmented, the Commission issued a proposal for a regulation in September 2013 aimed at creating one single telecoms market for Europe. The proposal modifies European law in a number of different domains: the authorisation regime, spectrum harmonisation, roaming, net neutrality, harmonisation of wholesale products, etc.
The European Commission's proposal for a regulation is structured into four chapters:
- a system of a single authorisation for operators active in several Member States,
- the harmonisation of European spectrum policy,
- the elimination of mobile roaming charges,
- a single framework for the protection of consumers.
Bouygues Telecom's remarks on the regulation proposal
Bouygues Telecom disputes the Commission's analysis that the European market is fragmented. Contrary to popular opinion whereby there are only three major operators in the United States, compared to more than 40 in Europe, there are in fact many small local players operating in the US market. Furthermore, the delay in investment on very-high-speed networks, particularly in rural areas, is not due to the inadequate size of operators but to the lack of a strong business model resulting from the current level of prices.
Bouygues Telecom believes this process should not be rushed. A legislative reform of this size deserves to be drafted with attention to detail. In particular, a public consultation followed by an impact study would have been necessary. In addition, this proposal for regulation will not resolve the lack of coherence caused by the many different layers of European, national and local regulations, quite the contrary in fact. As a result of this regulatory accumulation, operators are forced to comply with political objectives that are difficult to reconcile, which has a harmful impact on the telecoms market and discourages investment in new technologies and new networks.
Regarding the more technical aspects, whilst sharing the Commission's aim of encouraging investment in Europe, Bouygues Telecom fears that the complete elimination of roaming revenues in Europe will restrict investment in the short term. The adoption of a new regulation on roaming whilst the previous regulation, adopted in the summer of 2012, has still not been fully applied, creates legal insecurity which is incompatible with the normal operation of a company.
However, Bouygues Telecom does support the idea of "fair use", whereby a proportion of call plans can be used, at no extra cost, during occasional trips within Europe. Bouygues Telecom's new call plan which allows subscribers to call from European countries back to France for five weeks a year, free of charge, was designed with this in mind.
Regarding the coordination of spectrum auctions, Bouygues Telecom supports the Commission's proposal. The adoption of the least costly auction method would allow operators to allocate their resources more efficiently by investing their cash flow on new infrastructure. Also, it is fundamental that licence fees should not be demanded before operators are in a position to operate their spectrum in an effective manner.
Regarding consumer protection regulations, Bouygues Telecom believes they need to be reconsidered when they cannot be applied technically: e.g. this mainly concerns the definition of maximum financial limits for each end-user, and the provision of actual available data speeds for downloads and uploads at the main location of the end-user, etc.