Germans say no to mobile phone regulation

Mobile operators and the telecommunications regulator in Germany continue to oppose attempts by the European Union to regulate...

Mobile operators and the telecommunications regulator in Germany continue to oppose attempts by the European Union to regulate the German mobile phone market. The opposition threatens to strain relations between the EU and its largest member.

Unlike many other EU member states, Germany has allowed competitive forces - not regulation - shape its mobile phone sector. Matthias Kurth, president of the German telecommunication regulatory agency RegTP, said that the German market is Europe's largest, with nearly 55 million customers.

If competition is functioning and consumers are receiving attractive offers as they are in Germany, RegTP sees no need to intervene with unnecessary regulation, he added.

Kurth was commenting on the EU's latest telecom legislation, which went into effect in April, calling for regulation in the region's mobile sector, in addition to its fixed-line telecommunications sector. Under the legislation, national authorities are obliged to regulate operators that have a "dominant position".

The European Commission has been studying two areas that it believed required regulation: fees for cross-border roaming calls and interconnection charges for fixed-line calls terminated on mobile networks. German operators are at the centre of both investigations.

The country's four GSM operators - T-Mobile Deutschland, Vodafone D2, E-Plus Mobilfunk and O2 - oppose regulation, even though the companies have clashed in the past and the regulator had to mediate.

Even now, they have been arguing over the fee they want to charge customers for switching operator but retaining their phone number. T-Mobile and Vodafone, which control roughly 70% of the German mobile market, are seeking between €25 (£16) and €30 (£19).

E-Plus and, in particular, O2, which have the most to gain, would like to see the fee cut at least in half.

The telephone number service is to be introduced next month, almost four years later than planned.

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