Today, 14th November 2018, the European Parliament is expected to vote on the final approval of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which digs deeper into the EU’s telecom regulatory context. This reform paves the way for new fibre and 5G networks, and also expands the level of consumer protection available to the subscribers of telecom and OTT services.
The EU officials first presented the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy in May 2015, and the following year they introduced a connectivity agenda with proposals for the telecom sector. The DSM strategy contains diverse subjects, including support for cross-border e-commerce, prevention of geo-blocking, expansion on EU policies for the cloud, AI and competitiveness.
The key legislation for the DSM must be completed by May 2019. It will presumably assist in reaching the new targets for broadband connectivity set by the Commission for 2025: gigabit speeds for digital businesses and public sector institutions, access to a minimum of 100 Mb per second for urban and rural homes, and 5G coverage for all major cities, highways and rail lines.
Furthermore, the important changes in the telecom regulatory reform also include new opportunities for national regulators to require access to civil infrastructure and important network elements, regulatory relief for co-investment in fibre networks, and longer market review periods for standard forecasted regulatory decisions (five years rather than three), which would provide more certainty for operators. Moreover, the European Commission will gain the right to set a single EU voice termination rate, and the ability to regulate the two dominant network operators.
Regarding mobile frequency ranges, there has been success in finalizing the spectrum bands to be used for 5G. By the mid-2020s, the 700 MHz band needs to be released to mobile operators, and the 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz frequencies must be made accessible before 2030. The Commission is permitting each EU country to set their own license and auction terms for spectrum allocation, and the suggestion for a peer review has been made voluntary.
After today’s formal approval from the Parliament and later the Council, the EECC will be published in the official newsletter. The transitional period for EU member states to adopt the necessary provisions and put the directive into practice is two years (three years for new end-user rights). During this period, The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the European Commission will develop guidelines for accomplishing telecom regulatory reforms.