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EC overhauls telecoms rules to bolster broadband, 5G

The European Commission is set to make a number of changes to European Union telecoms rules to support ultrafast network connectivity

The European Commission (EC) has outlined a number of new initiatives to meet the growing need for superfast and ultrafast connectivity across the European Union (EU), encourage investment in high-capacity networks, and accelerate public access to Wi-Fi across the EU.

The measures were announced alongside EC president Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the union address and form part of the EC’s plans to create a Digital Single Market in the EU.

The EC laid out three key objectives which it hopes to meet by 2025: to give schools, universities, research centres, transport hubs, public services and digital enterprises access to ultrafast broadband capable of delivering speeds of at least 1Gbps; to give every household in the EU access to broadband capable of delivering speeds of at least 100Mbps, that can be upgraded to gigabit connectivity later; and to give all urban areas, major roads and railways 5G coverage, with a 5G network to be made available in at least one major city in each EU state by 2020.

“Connectivity is a key prerequisite for Europe's digital future: The internet of things, digitisation of industry, cloud, big data – all this demands secure and ubiquitous connectivity, with the best speed and quality,” said commissioner for the digital economy and society Günther Oettinger.

“Europe has the ambition to lead on the deployment of 5G. It is time to move to a gigabit society and make sure all Europeans, whether in the countryside or in cities, can get access to a quality internet connection.”

European Communications Code

A new European Communications Code, proposed alongside the core objectives detailed above, will introduce simplified rules to make infrastructure investment more attractive to the private sector. The EC believes this could create 1.3 million new jobs across the EU and boost bloc-wide gross domestic product (GDP) by €910m.

The EC plans to try to reduce divergence in telecoms regulation across the EU so that network builders will have more certainty that they can invest in larger-scale, cross-border projects, and deal with less red tape. Moreover, it plans to substantially reduce regulation where multiple operators are co-investing in high-capacity networks, which could also have the effect of making it easier for smaller operators to take part in network roll-outs.

Read more about telecoms regulation

The new code will also aim to cut bureaucracy by harmonising regulation of radio spectrum, proposing new longer licence durations, and more stringent requirements to use spectrum efficiently. The EC will also take on co-ordination of basic parameters such as the timing of spectrum release to the market.

Finally, the code will bring new powers into effect to improve consumer protection rights, giving EU residents more power to switch suppliers and ensuring internet service providers (ISPs) offer vulnerable users – such as the elderly, disabled, or those on restricted incomes – low-cost internet packages. It will also extend security requirements to new online, or over-the-top (OTT) players to ensure users are better protected.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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