While the future of the Brexit process remains uncertain, what consequences could the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have on roaming charges, and on the country’s connectivity in general?
- On roaming charges
There are several possible scenarios here. If an exit deal is reached, there would be a transition period during which the principle of “Roam like at home”should continue to apply. At the end of this period, the terms governing roaming fees between the UK and the other European Union countries will need to be negotiated as part of a new economic partnership. If no deal is reached, Roam like at home will no longer be guaranteed by law, and everything will depend on the decisions and business negotiations between operators on either side of the Channel.
- On national connectivity
Back in February, the Confederation of British Industryexpressed its concerns over the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. It spoke in particular about the serious impact that it would have on fibre and 5G rollouts, and on bridging the country’s digital divide. The main threats concerned diminishing private investment, difficulties importing fibre and the exodus of qualified engineers.
The latest plenary meeting of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) in 2018 marked the completion of several major undertakings, including the adoption of a common position on informing consumers on mobile coverage, and the publication for consultation of a report on infrastructure sharing.
This meeting also kicked off several major projects for 2019.
- Implementing the new European Electronic Communications Code, which was published last December;
- Performing a review of net neutrality guidelines;
- As well as delivering a preliminary analysis of the potential impact that the advent of 5G will have on regulation.
This ambitious work programme, to be spread out over two years, will be headed up by BEREC’s new Irish Chair in 2019, Jeremy Godfrey, followed by his Swedish counterpart, Dan Sjoblom, in 2020.
Further details on BEREC’s work programme for 2019
The new European Electronic Communications Code, which has just been officially adopted, has been published on 17 December. This final step wraps up a legislative process for reviewing the 2009 Telecoms Package that began in September 2016.
The Code’s main goal: to develop very high capacity network connectivity across Europe by promoting investment and the emergence of future technologies (notably fibre and 5G). To this end, the Code introduces measures designed to stimulate fibre rollouts and competition, which draw their inspiration to a large extent from the French experience.
The European Parliament and Council have also agreed to strengthen the role played by BEREC, the cooperation body between European regulators, by assigning it new tasks to ensure that the Code is enforced in a consistent fashion across the EU.
In 2019, Arcep will be involved in transposing this new framework into national law, which should be complete by 2020, and in the work being done by BEREC.
The European Commission created a quarterly 5G observatory in October, which tracks a range of data such as:
- planned spectrum use in every European country;
- status of 5G trials in Europe;
- national 5G rollout roadmaps;
- and other actions being carried out by industry stakeholders and Member States.
Click here for more information!
On 20 September, the European Regulators Group for Postal Services (ERGP) hosted its first ever “Stakeholders Forum” in Brussels. The event brought together postal, digital and e-commerce market stakeholders to discuss the future of regulation, around the central theme of: “When digital meets postal – Evolution or revolution?”
A chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities being ushered in by the tremendous growth of e-commerce in Europe. Andreas Marschner, Amazon’s VP of Transportation services for the EU, identified, for instance: 365-day shipping a year, the development of innovative technologies for ensuring delivery in the last drop (even with the recipient is absent), cutting out the maximum number of middlemen in the logistics chain to ensure even faster delivery.
There is also no shortage of challenges on the regulatory front: ensuring transparency, affordable prices, reliability, consumer protection… Let the debates begin! ERGP has begun a series of projects, with a view to delivering an opinion to the European Commission in summer 2019 on possible reforms to the Postal Directive.
Is consolidation the only way to revive the telecoms market? To answer this oft repeated question, BEREC decided to analyse the impact of three mergers that occurred in three mobile markets – Germany, Austria and Ireland – between 2013 and 2014*.
It published its conclusions in June, in a report that is now available in French on the Arcep website.
Sébastien Soriano spoke about the report in an interview with La Tribune on 14 September, and summarised it thus: “(…) there is no magic formula: everything depends on the state of the market and the measures agreed upon by the stakeholders… It has to be taken on a case by case basis!”
* These mergers reduced the number of mobile operators competing in these three countries from four to three.
• Read the report (in English)
The European Commission has just fined Google €4.34 billion for abuse of dominant position. A record fine that marks the end of an inquiry launched three years ago by Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition.
In the crosshairs is the Android operating system. Google imposes illegal restrictions on Android device makers and mobile operators, to strengthen its search engine’s dominant position: for instance, Google obliges manufacturers to preinstall Google Search and Google Chrome on Android devices.
This is a landmark decision from the Commission as it affects innovation and, beyond that, every consumer’s freedom and freedom of choice. Arcep Chair, Sébastien Soriano, shared his reaction to the decision in a Medium post, following through on the report that Arcep published in February 2018, “Devices: the weak link in achieving an open internet”.
Google must put an end to these practices within 90 days. The company has appealed the decision.
A few figures: In 2017, Android had a roughly 85.9% share of the mobile OS market, compared to 14% for Apple’s operating system, iOS, and 0.1% for all the other OS. More than 1.3 billion Android smartphones were sold in 2017, compared to around 215 million for iOS, and 1.5 million for the other operating systems. (Sources: Gartner)
Read Sébastien Soriano’s post on Medium (in French): “Android decision: how smartphones took control, and how to get it back.”
In the night of 5 to 6 June of this year, a political agreement was reached between the European Parliament and EU Member States on the content of the European Electronic Communications Code. This completes a legislative process for reviewing the Telecoms Package Directives that began in September 2016. The Code’s core ambition: to develop connectivity to very high capacity networks in Europe (notably fibre and 5G), by updating the rules governing access regulation and by introducing greater coordination on 5G spectrum assignment timetables. The Code also seeks to strengthen consumers’ rights and adapt the framework to current realities (incorporating certain web-based services and including broadband in the universal service).
As the expert regulator, Arcep lent its support to preparing French authorities’ position on the legislative work done on reviewing the framework. Working within BEREC, it voiced EU regulators’ common positions in public debates, in its capacity as BEREC Chair in 2017, and played a very active role in the technical analysis work performed when crafting these positions. In 2018, the Authority continues to be heavily involved in this issue, examining and later transposing this new Code, which is due to be adopted in mid-2018 and come into force by 2020.
The new European regulation governing cross-border parcel shipments came into effect on 22 May. It increases transparency on the price of cross-border parcel deliveries for consumers and businesses in Europe, and introduces supervision of this fast-growing market. The goal: to make deliveries between European Union countries more affordable and more efficient for e-commerce across Europe.
This text is thus synonymous with the newfound powers assigned to national regulatory authorities in Europe – which in France is Arcep – and which will:
- collect data on parcel operators (products, revenue and volume of parcels handled) and their prices;
- ensure that the price of universal cross-border parcel services (which in France are provided by La Poste) is reasonable.
A declaration system for operators will be put into place before the end of 2018, while the tools for collecting statistical data will be implemented in the first half of 2019.
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On 28 March, the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) delivered its report on zero-rating in Europe. To mark the occasion, the Centre hosted an afternoon of debates whose participants included Arcep Chair, Sébastien Soriano, as well as DG Connect, the Chair of BEREC, BEUC, as well as Europe’s main telcos and leading internet companies.
Sébastien Soriano issued a reminder that freedom of choice is a central tenet of net neutrality, which must not be confined to only economic issues. He also spoke of the recommendations that Arcep set out in a dedicated report, to limit the influence that devices (smartphones, tablets, voice assistants) have on internet openness.
The afternoon’s other highlights included interesting discussions on data economics, the markets being built around these data, the competition issues they create and the regulatory questions they raise.
In a report on content and terminal equipment, the BEREC Markets and Economic Analysis group analysed the issue of internet openness by focusing on device manufacturers and operating system providers. Because the European regulation of 2015 does not impose any restrictions on the latter, the aim was to determine whether devices and operating systems were capable of restricting open access to online content.
The report points up the importance that applications have in providing internet access, and so the key role of app stores that have to the power to filter these apps. It also raises the question of the real possibility of users having an operating system that enables fully open internet access. BEREC thus deems it appropriate to monitor the development of device and operating system markets, and to employ data-driven regulation, by pushing for transparency on manufacturers’ and providers’ practices.
According to Pierre Moscovici, European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, the actual effective tax rate for large corporations is 9%, compared to 23% for every other enterprise in Europe. This is why, in late March, the Commission will introduce a corporate tax reform so that every business pays taxes according the principle that “profits should be taxed where value is created”. The idea is to identify indicators, such as number of clicks, number of IP addresses, amounts allocated to advertising, then to find mechanisms for taxing not only the GAFA heavyweights, but also service industry companies such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
In Germany as well, the issue of how to tax digital industry companies is on the table, as revealed by the coalition talks that are to result in the formation of a new government.
Just over a year after having adopted its net neutrality guidelines, last December BEREC published a report that delivers a scorecard for the first months of implementing net neutrality rules across Europe. Drawing on the 28 national reports published last June, and discussions between national experts on their own experiences, the report welcomes the consistency of national regulatory authorities’ (NRA) approach to practices that undermine net neutrality (blocking apps, discriminatory traffic management, etc.) and stresses that certain commercial practices that could have an impact on users’ rights, such as zero rating, warrant close analysis. The report underscores the importance of the dialogue between NRAs with BEREC, to ensure the consistent enforcement of European regulation.
In 2018, BEREC will draw on this initial experience to assess the enforcement of the Open Internet rules and the guidelines adopted in August 2016. This assessment report to be published in December 2018 will help inform the European Commission’s own assessment in 2019.
Why does Arcep have to notify its market analysis decisions to the European Commission before it can adopt them? According to the European “Framework” directive of 2002, national regulatory authorities must notify their draft decisions on the markets to be regulated, the designation of SMP operator(s) and the remedies applied. The process of notifying decisions to the European Commission is a lengthy one, involving several pre-notification meetings at which Arcep was required to provide details on its draft decisions that will have a decisive influence on market structure.
Following notification of the decisions on broadband and superfast broadband markets, the Commission issued no objections to their adoption by Arcep. It did, however, make two observations and, echoing them, Arcep reiterated that it would be mindful of ensuring that Orange puts into practice the changes it announced for remedying the operational problems that its competitors have experienced in marketing fibre access in France.
To find our more about the analysis decisions on fixed broadband and superfast broadband markets for 2017-2020
In October, BEREC decided to design a common tool for all European regulators, allowing each of them to measure the quality of fixed and mobile internet access services. Thanks to this tool, European NRAs would also be able to detect forbidden traffic management practices (such as blocking or restricting access to certain applications). Still in the design stage, the core elements of this common tool will be available in late 2019.
Now that the European Council and Parliament have ratified their negotiation mandate on the “Telecoms code,” three-way talks have begun between the European Council and the European Parliament, before the European Commission, and will run until early 2018. Several decisive issues will need to be resolved during these discussions: the role of independent regulators, conditions governing access to spectrum, and the scheme for the new network components subject to co-investment.
Moreover, on 2 October the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) adopted a report on the draft regulation on BEREC, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications. Contrary to the European Commission’s proposal, which would transform BEREC into an agency, the adopted report preserves the current structure that enables efficient cooperation between independent NRAs, while also bringing improvements to it.
Report on the draft regulation on BEREC
On 13 September the European Commission published its latest proposal on the free flow of non-personal data. Its core purpose: to lift any obstacles to data mobility. This proposal aims to stimulate innovation and unleash opportunities for the data economy in the European Union, at a time when the Internet of Things is growing exponentially.
The proposal is currently going through Europe’s legislative channels, and could come into effect at the national level by 2020. It will also be debated by European leaders at the European Digital Summit in Tallinn on 29 September.
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After several years of negotiation (see The Post No. 9 – “Arcep telling it like it is”), users in Europe have been able to “roam like at home” since June 15th!
This means that users travelling in any European Union country can make phone calls and send text messages and MMS at no extra charge, just as they would at home in France. To limit potential abuses of this new provision, operators may cap data traffic beyond a certain threshold, and could bill customers a (capped) surcharge. This is a major milestone in furthering the creation of the Digital Single Market, but also for users from the French overseas territories when travelling in other parts of France.
Arcep will be especially mindful of ensuring that operators comply with their newfound obligations.
And European regulators operating within BEREC will work to ensure that these rules are enforced in a consistent fashion across the European Union.
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On 11 May, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) published 12 technical papers on the review of the European regulatory framework, and so delivering a follow-up to the BEREC opinion published in December 2016.
These papers provide European lawmakers with proposed amendments and improvements in areas such as co-investment, symmetric regulation, duration of spectrum rights and the proposed reform of BEREC.
The twelve papers can be accessed here.
1,341… That is the number of amendments to the draft of the European Electronic Communications Code filed to date in the European Parliament, since the code was first proposed by the European Commission in late 2016. The European Parliament committee responsible for the dossier has until 11 July 2017 to reach a compromise over the text. In the meantime, the EU Council, the other European co-legislator, is continuing its own reading of the draft text. Once each institution has achieved its own consensus, they will be able to began three-way discussions with the European Commission, and reach an agreement.
Every year, the European Commission compares the 28 Member States’ digital performance thanks to its Digital Economy and Society Index. Broadband and superfast broadband coverage and take-up rates, digital skills amongst the population, use of e-commerce and e-government services are among the indicators that make its possible to help Member States to identify those areas where they need to invest more and take action to achieve a digital single market in Europe.
What stands out from the findings published in early March?
At the European level:
- 76% of European households have access to a superfast connection (≤ 30 Mbit/s);
- 4G networks cover 84% of the European population;
- 79% of Europeans use the internet at least once a week;
- 34% of internet users complete administrative forms online rather than using hard copies.
And what about France?
France ranks 16th, below the European average, in terms of superfast broadband coverage and take-up and in internet use. It scores highest in the areas of e-government (9th) and digital skills amongst the population (9th).
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On 31 January, representatives of the European Parliament, Council and the European Commission reached an agreement over lowering the prices that mobile operators charge one another when their customers use other networks when travelling in another European Union countries.
These prices, also referred to as wholesale prices, will be capped as follows:
- 3.2 cents per minute of voice call, as of 15 June 2017;
- 1 cent per SMS, as of 15 June 2017;
- A step by step reduction over 5 years for data caps decreasing from €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017) to €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020), €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).
The Parliament’s formal adoption of this agreement in May will mark the final step needed to abolish the additional international roaming charges that users in the EU have to pay, and due to come into force on 15 June 2017.
European Commission press release
As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, on 10 January the European Commission unveiled its action plan for “Building a European Data Economy”. It will explore cross-border projects on “cooperative connected and automated mobility (CAD) that allow vehicles to connect with each other and with roadside infrastructure”. The conditions of use for 5G and the Internet of Things may also be explored. Here again the aim is to encourage the portability of non-personal data, and their free flow within the EU.
What are the advantages of the free flow of data?
Weather forecasts, customised healthcare, better road safety, fewer traffic jams… the advantages are many and various. Moreover, in 2015 the European Commission estimated that the data-driven economy would represent €272 billion in the European Union (with 5.6% annual growth) and could be employing 7.4 million people by 2020.
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European ministers responsible for digital affairs met in Brussels on 2 December during a session of the Council of the EU devoted to telecoms. Along with the Parliament, the Council, which represents Member States' governments, is one of the European Union's main decision-making bodies, where European laws are examined, amended and adopted.
At the heart of these Council debates were:
- the planned elimination of roaming tariffs on 15 June 2017;
On 7 November, the European Commission endorsed France's "Plan très haut debit" superfast broadband scheme, saying it is compatible with European rules on State aid. This plan, which aims to provide complete nationwide superfast broadband coverage by 2022, has projected an investment of €13 billion on superfast network rollouts in France, including €3 billion in State subsidies. The European framework requires a guarantee that public financing does not replace private funding, to ensure proper use of public monies, Commission also ensures that the networks this spending will finance will provide full access to all operators in a non-discriminatory fashion, at access prices that will be supervised by Arcep.
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La Commission européenne l'a annoncé le 21 septembre dernier : les particuliers comme les entreprises pourront utiliser leur offre mobile en itinérance au sein des pays de l'Union européenne sans frais supplémentaires à partir du 15 juin 2017.
Restent à définir certaines mesures accompagnatrices, actuellement en discussion au sein des instances européennes :
- la Commission européenne doit adopter, avant le 15 décembre 2016 après avis du BEREC, l'organe des régulateurs européens, un acte d'exécution pour éviter d'éventuels usages abusifs ;
- le Parlement européen et le Conseil de l'Union européenne négocient en parallèle la révision du marché inter-opérateurs de l'itinérance.
The current regulatory framework for telecommunications in Europe is based on directives adopted in 2002 and 2009. To adapt to rapid and ongoing developments in the sector, the European Commission has just published a complete review of the legislation, with two major objectives in mind:
- connectivity: give regulators and the sector's stakeholders the tools they need to meet Europe's increasingly ambitious fixed and mobile coverage targets, in a way that benefits both the economy and digital society;
- innovation: ensure the regulatory framework keeps pace with the rapid development of communication technologies (5G, the Internet of Things, OTT).
It is now up to the European Parliament and Council to examine these proposals and discuss them. European NRAs will take part in this debate, notably through BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications), of which Arcep will be Chair in 2017.
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