EU Requests Comment on New Code for Communications, Including 1-1-2
Monday, July 02, 2018 | Comments

European Union (EU) members countries' ambassadors approved a set of new rules for the electronic communications sector that cover the 5G rollout and other next-generation technologies, stronger consumer protection and a capped rate for international calls within the EU.

A provisional agreement on the “European Electronic Communications Code” and on a revised remit for the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communication (BEREC) was reached with the European Parliament 5 June. This reform will frame the development of the electronic communications sector for the next 10 years and beyond, officials said.

The agreement requires all member states to set up a public warning system to send alerts to citizens on their mobile phones in the event of a natural disaster or other major emergency in their areas. This “reverse 1-1-2” system will have to be in place within 3.5 years of the directive entering into force.

To promote 5G investment, member states will provide operators with regulatory predictability over a period of at least 20 years regarding spectrum licensing for wireless broadband. Decisions on renewals of rights will have to be taken in a timely manner. Member states will also have to make available new frequency bands for 5G that will allow faster internet connections and increased connectivity throughout Europe.

The directive will update current rules on operators' access to networks to encourage competition and make it easier for companies to invest in new, high-capacity infrastructure capable of download speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps), including in more remote areas. The text allows authorities to reduce the level of regulation to some extent where markets are competitive but introduces safeguards to ensure that market regulation remains effective.

“I am confident that it will stimulate healthy competition and increased investment in 5G and fiber networks, so that every citizen and business in the EU can enjoy very high quality connectivity and an increasing choice of innovative digital services,” said Ivaylo Moskovski, Bulgarian minister for transport, IT and communications.

Electronic communications services will also cover services provided over the internet such as messaging apps and email, known as over-the-top (OTT) services. Certain characteristics of the service — rather than the underlying technology — will determine which rules of the directive will apply. For example, an obligation to provide certain information in contracts will only concern services that are provided against remuneration.

Affordable and adequate internet access will be included in the list of universal services that must be available to all consumers, irrespective of their location or income. People with disabilities should have equal internet access.

Public consultation runs from 20 June to 19 July. Once the framework is agreed and finalized, it must be formally adopted, first by the Parliament and then by the Council. Following adoption, the legal acts will be published in the EU's Official Journal. This is expected to take place at the end of this year.

Member states will then have two years to adopt the necessary provisions to put the directive into practice. An additional one-year transition period will apply to the harmonized end-user provisions.

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