Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission (EC), made use of his ‘State of the Union’ speech on Wednesday to unveil several major policy proposals on the Digital Single Market including an ambitious overhaul of EU telecoms rules to address an expected shortfall in infrastructure funding.
To achieve connectivity goals by 2025 of 1 Gbps access for businesses, education and public service bodies and at least 100 Mbps for all households, the EC proposed a new European Electronic Communications Code to make it more attractive for companies to invest in new infrastructure both locally and across borders.
It noted that the new code is designed to address a €155 billion ($174 billion) investment shortfall in investment funding, with a total of €500 billion investment expected to be required over the coming decade.
Proposals in the new code include greater predictability for investments, including less regulation where required in order to encourage operators to invest in new networks; better use of spectrum, including longer licences and converged policies across the EU; stronger consumer protection, such as making it easier to change telecoms plans; and the extension of telecoms rules to online players that offer equivalent services to traditional operators, to ensure that security requirements apply.
The EC added that the investments triggered by the new framework could boost GDP by an additional €910 billion and create 1.3 million new jobs by 2025.
In addition to the code, the commission also presented an action plan to deploy 5G across the EU as from 2018, saying this has the potential to create 2 million jobs in the EU. Another key initiative, WiFi4EU, aims at helping European communities offer free Wi-Fi access points to any citizen.
The GSMA was quick to give its approval to the new proposals from the EC, particularly with regard to spectrum reform and 5G rollout plans.
Mats Granryd, director general of the association, praised the EC for recognising “the need to incentivise a step change in infrastructure investment in order to fulfil the potential of the Digital Single Market” and support the march to 5G.
Granryd commented that the spectrum policy reform proposals, for example, “will help provide the consistency needed to underpin investor confidence.”
He added: “Telecoms markets have changed beyond recognition since the current set of rules was enacted. Today’s markets are much broader in scope due to the convergence of digital technologies and services.”
Granryd also suggested that any further improvements to the commission’s blueprint “should focus on further incentivising investment and ensuring that European citizens benefit from a same service/same protection guarantee.”
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