THE WRAP: EU to step up regulation, iTunes' imitators

It may not have been as dramatic a week on the financial markets as last week, but it's been another tough week in telecoms, but with some very bright spots.

Various EU bodies put more pressure on telcos of all stripes this week. The European Parliament called for a new independent telecoms regulatory group to open up competition for internet and phone services, although it didn't go as far as the European Commission would like in its proposals to weaken the grip many incumbents still have on their domestic markets.

The European commissioner who oversees telecoms, Viviane Reding, said she will put the new rules forward to reduce SMS roaming charges because operators had failed to lower them sufficiently despite her warnings.

Apple's iTunes and iPhone is under fire from all sides with Amazon saying it will offer a new music download service for the first Android-powered handset launched by T-Mobile USA this week, the G1. One the same day, MySpace, which is part-owned by the big music labels, said it to would launch an iTune's type music store.

Nortel announced on it was revising downward its guidance for 3Q and the 2008 full year forecast and that it was "exploring the divestiture of its Metro Ethernet Networks business." Both announcements have far reaching implications for the packet-optical networking market and industry as a whole.

In an unprecedented, welcomed move, Microsoft is to use its cash mountain to buy back shares in an effort to bolster its stock price, and enter the public debt markets. HP too is embarking on a substantial share buy back programme.

Europe's mobile telecoms industry remains strong despite fears about the impact of the global credit crunch, according to Ovum. Consumers have not cut back on their mobile spending, apparently seeing their phone usage as an essential, not a luxury.

And according to Informa's research, by the end of 2008, it will have taken just five quarters for the global mobile industry to add another billion subscribers, meaning that four billion of the world's six billion plus inhabitants now have mobile phones.

However, the news is not quite so good for those without mobile connectivity as the rate of growth is slowing.