EU overhauls telco rules in bid to stimulate Gigabit broadband rollouts 

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed easing network access rules as part of a sweeping reform package designed to stimulate massive investments in ultrafast broadband infrastructure.

The so-called Electronic Communications Code (ECC) aims to implement a pragmatic approach to mandated network access, encouraging regulatory intervention only in cases where competition and choice are lacking.
Access obligations will be less stringent for wholesale-only players and operators co-investing in new high-speed networks. The aim is to give companies large and small the confidence to make hefty, long-term investments in new infrastructure.

Operators deemed to have significant market power (SMP) will continue to be subject to access rules, such as letting rivals install their own fibre on ducts and poles. Furthermore, to keep telcos in check, regulators will be allowed to sanction those that renege on promised network deployments without good cause.

"Challengers want to continue to be part of and often lead the fibre adventure. They are ready to invest and stand behind effective and sustainable competition as the driver of efficient investments," said the chairman of altnet lobby group,the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA).

"ECTA members support the emphasis given to co-investment in the proposal, and in particular the possibility for all operators to invest according to their ability, but it should be based on fair and reasonable conditions, and put in actual practice," he said.
On the mobile side, the ECC proposes longer-lasting spectrum licences and more stringent rules requiring effective and efficient use of airwaves. It also aims to encourage EU-wide coordination when it comes to assigning frequencies with the goal of improving mobile coverage across the bloc.

The reforms also aim to make it easier for consumers to switch provider, even if they are signed up to a service bundle, and to ensure that vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, disabled and low-income households have access to affordable Internet services.
"We need to be connected. Our economy needs it. People need it. And we have to invest in that connectivity now," said EU president Jean-Claude Juncker, in his 2016 state of the union speech.
It is hoped that the proposed reform package and the investment it hopes to foster will help the EU hit three new targets it has set for 2025:

1. Every school, university, research centre, transport hub, hospital, administrative building, and digitally-focused enterprise should have access to symmetric Gigabit connectivity.
2. All European households, rural or urban, should be able to get at least 100 Mbps broadband, which can be upgraded to at least 1 Gbps.
3. Urban areas, and major roads and railways must have uninterrupted 5G coverage. As an interim step, 5G should be commercially available in at least one major city in every EU member state by 2020.
To help with the funding of new networks, the Commission plans to launch by the end of 2016 a European Broadband Fund, which will combine public and private investments to support network deployments throughout the EU.

"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 digital economy and society commissioner Günther Oettinger, in a statement.

Vodafone welcomed the EU's proposals on the whole, but said some of its objectives are not ambitious enough.
"We would welcome...a revision upwards of the 100-Mbps connectivity target for European households by 2025; if Europe is to embrace fully its Gigabit Society vision and all the economic benefits that will bring, we should set an ambition now for 1 Gigabit speeds for everyone,"said a joint statement from Markus Reinisch,public policy director,and Grégoire Verdeaux,international policy director,at Vodafone.

They also called on the Commission to roll out indefinite spectrum licences and, in a not-so-subtle dig at U.K. incumbent BT, strengthen rules regarding structural separation of incumbents' retail and wholesale operations.
Meanwhile, the EU's reforms could also make OTT communication service providers like WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook subject to tighter regulations.

Under the proposals, OTT comms providers must ensure that their networks and servers are secure. OTT voice services in particular could also be forced to enable their users to call the emergency services.

The European Commission also has big plans for WiFi.
Under its new 'WiFi4EU' initiative, Brussels has earmarked an initial budget of €120 million to facilitate the deployment of free WiFi hotspots in and around public buildings, and in publice spaces such as parks or squares.
"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," Oettinger said.

Source: Total Telecom