Paris, 5th June 2002
The Independent Regulators’ Group (IRG), composed of the heads of the national telecommunications regulatory agencies of nineteen European countries, held its tenth plenary meeting in Paris the 23 and 24 May, under the chairmanship of Jean-Michel Hubert, chairman of the French Autorité de régulation des télécommunications.
- Overview of the results
IRG was created in 1997 as a flexible tool to approximate national regulatory practices and exchange useful experience. It has, since then, gained considerable and in-depth experience of the markets. On 24 May, a few weeks after the formal adoption of the new E.U. regulatory framework, it decided to reinforce its efficiency with improved working methods and a far-reaching work programme. Some important decisions were also adopted, that further improve the common understanding of the EU framework.
- Aims of IRG
Besides the European institutions and the governmental authorities, whose responsibilities are to define the policies and to adopt the rules, IRG confirmed its ambition to be a cornerstone of the Directives’ implementation, since its members have the competence for the day-to-day enforcement of sector-specific telecommunications rules
One of IRG’s main goals is to promote the harmonisation of the European market, which is a major policy objective of the European Union. It has proved in the past years its ability to find coherent solutions to apply Community law to rather different markets.
- Co-operation with the European Commission
To reach the harmonisation objective, a close and confident co-operation will be further developed with the European Commission, with which IRG intends to maintain a constant dialogue about the priorities, the methods and the concrete measures to be taken.
In this respect, the European Commission’s intention to create an advisory group of Communications regulators is seen by IRG as a potentially interesting tool for co-operation, that should enable national regulators to collectively take common positions on the implementation of Community law, which they would apply to their respective national markets, without breaching their statutory independence.
- A new structure aiming at efficiency
A Secretariat has been set up to co-ordinate IRG’s expert work and serve as a contact point for interested parties. It will start its operation as a network of competent officials belonging to several NRAs. Mrs Sylvia Alonso Salterain, of the Spanish CMT, has been appointed as co-ordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Working groups have been reorganised to take account of a rapidly changing environment. The renovated structure anticipates the new missions granted to NRAs by the European regulatory framework, in particular concerning competition issues. It was nevertheless designed in a flexible way, to allow IRG to deal without delay with unexpected emerging problems.
A special emphasis has been put on the consistent transposition of the new regulatory framework into national laws. An exchange of experience and discussions on the legal and practical ways of enforcing the Directives will help, not only NRAs, but also competent State authorities to draft the most relevant and efficient texts.
Following a successful seminar hosted by the Danish regulator, NITA, IRG has also decided to co-operate and exchange information concerning the problems of IT and communications networks security.
- An ambitious work programme
Clear mandates have been assigned to working groups, which will focus on the main issues facing the market, such as the unbundling of the local loop, broadband access, UMTS networks roll-out, international and national mobile calls, leased lines or long run incremental costs (LRICs). New tasks assigned to NRAs in the fields of market definition, market analysis and the designation of operators with significant market power will lead to a reinforced co-operation.
IRG has also decided to engage new expert work in the sensitive field of call termination tariffs on mobile networks, and to deepen its reflections on the collaboration of telecommunications regulators with national competition authorities.
Full details on the work programme and the organisation of working groups will be soon available on IRG’s website (http://irgis.icp.pt/site).
- Adoption of several measures
IRG has adopted several texts that represent concrete steps on the way towards harmonisation:
- A new set of statistical parameters has been adopted to improve the provision of comparable market data at European level.
- Additional guidelines (PIBs: Principles of Implementation and Best Practices) on unbundling have been adopted. The PIBs address the issues of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and Service Level Agreements (SLA).
- IRG has also approved the main lines of a common position on the European Commission’s draft recommendation on relevant markets. The final text, which will represent an invaluable contribution to the definition of competition conditions, will be adopted in the coming weeks, when the final version of Commission’s draft will be available.
- Orientations have been given to IRG members to co-operate individually and within IRG with Commission’s competition services on the enquiry on international mobile roaming charges, a matter that needs both national and international investigations.
The new orientations agreed on 24 May clearly indicate IRG’s firm intention to contribute actively to the harmonised achievement of a fair and effective competition on all European telecommunications markets, to the benefit of economic growth and of consumers’ interests. Member NRAs have all shown an equally strong commitment to reach this objective.
IRG chairmanship will be taken over by the Finnish FICORA during the second half of 2002, and by the Austrian RTR and the Dutch OPTA, respectively for the first and second half of 2003.