Swiss operators divided on federal amendments to telecoms laws

Swisscom and rival Sunrise expressed divided opinions regarding a Swiss Federal Council decision to partially amend the country’s telecoms regulations.

While Swisscom issued a statement warning that the plans could jeopardise future network investment, a Sunrise spokesperson told FierceWireless:Europe that the operator is in favour and that it is “now important to start the process as quickly as possible.”

The Council on Friday called on Switzerland’s Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) to amend the country’s Law on Telecommunications by September 2017, following a consultation that opened in December 2015.

In a statement, DETEC explained that the Council said the majority of 151 responses to the consultation highlighted the need for the law to be changed to reflect technical and economic developments in the telecoms market.

The changes aim to strengthen consumer protection “particularly in the fight against abusive calls” and “child pornography”. Also included are the introduction of “measures to limit roaming prices” along with plans to “focus on the obligation of transparency on network neutrality and the possibility for the federal regulation of access to new network technologies” in the event that any company achieves a dominant market position.

Sunrise’s spokesperson told FW:E that the federal regulation element is a welcome move, as it will ensure a level playing field “in the case of market failure,” particularly in the fibre market. Future investment is not at risk because the “security and attractiveness in new technologies and infrastructures” is maintained by the fact that “without market failure there is no government intervention.”

The spokesperson added that the planned changes are “a strong signal” that will encourage “strong competition” in the future. “Sunrise and a wide front from industry, consumer organisations and providers have already expressed this during the consultation phase.”

Swisscom argued that federal regulation is unnecessary in a market where networks “such as optical fibre and mobile telecommunications are in competition with one another and ensure rapid connections and a wide range of moderate prices nationwide.”

The operator warned that government intervention could impact future investment. “The most important aim of regulation must be to create a reliable framework for the sustained high level of capital expenditure” it stated, adding that investment in new networks and technologies will only be made “if there is the prospect of sufficient compensation for the associated investment risks.”

Swisscom also noted that roaming prices “have been radically reduced” by operators in recent years, and said it sees “no need for the statutory regulation of network neutrality” because there have yet to be any cases in the country where access to “services or offerings have been blocked,” and because operators and industry associations “already signed a code of conduct on network neutrality in November 2014.”

Self-regulation has also addressed the “protection of consumers and minors,” the operator argued.

For more:
- see this Swisscom statement
- view this DETEC announcement (in French)

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