EC promises not to interfere in 3G

The European Commission (EC) has responded to mobile industry fears by promising to take a hands-off approach to the introduction...

The European Commission (EC) has responded to mobile industry fears by promising to take a hands-off approach to the introduction of third generation (3G) mobile services.

In a report released last week, the EC said public authorities can contribute to the success of 3G services by ensuring a stable and favourable regulatory environment, without over-regulating the market.

"The commission believes the sector is best served by letting the market drive the [3G] process ahead, and by allowing for the deployment of a healthy competitive environment to generate new products people will want to buy and use," the report said.

The report comes three weeks after GSM Europe, the mobile industry body which represents 123 operators in 50 European countries, urged the EC to hold back from interfering in m-commerce and 3G, saying inappropriate regulation could damage these new services.

However, there are areas where public authorities can help the market, the report said. For example, the EC could boost the development of attractive content - key to the success of 3G - by launching research activities, such as validating multilingual content development, and fostering the implementation of public services over 3G and other platforms.

Erkki Liikanen, enterprise and information society commissioner, said the EC is committed to ensuring that 3G is a success. "The roll-out of 3G is a continuous process which requires and deserves continuous attention by public authorities when accompanying the efforts of the market players themselves," he said. "There are no simple answers to the challenges ahead but 3G has developed sufficient momentum to overcome the present difficulties. The commission remains confident in this respect."

Meanwhile, the EC has rebuffed calls from cash-strapped mobile phone operators to change the conditions of 3G licences to allow market consolidation.

Following a sharp fall in telecom stock values, compounded by a two-year global economic downturn, operators have lobbied national governments to change the rules and let them either sell spectrum licenses to another party or retain them if they merge with a rival.

The commission decided this week not to change the rules, stating that changes in licence conditions could be envisaged only if circumstances changed "unpredictably".

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