EU proposes European telecoms watchdog


EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) last week proposed to introduce a single telecoms watchdog for all of Europe, called the European Telecom Market Authority (ETMA).

The proposal is part of a wider ‘Telecoms Reform Package’, which advocates for consumers to switch networks within one day, the ability to call freephone numbers from abroad, increased broadband competition, the deregulation of already competitive markets and the creation of more independent national watchdogs.

t would also allow national regulators to divide the network and retail sections of dominant operators.

According to the European Commission, there are too few pan-European services, which hinders cross-border consolidation and the entry of new competitors to the market.

The European Commission also believes a potential ETMA will strengthen existing collaborations between national regulators and will act as a central operator when required.

Said Reding: “The fragmentation of Europe’s telecoms market is depriving European consumers of the benefits of cross-border competition in telecoms. This is what we need to change.”

However UK telecoms regulator Ofcom said that while a common European telecoms agenda could create greater efficiency and competition, there was concern that the proposed ETMA would override the decisions of national regulators.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “We fully agree that communications providers should be able to operate competitively across European boundaries, avoiding a patchwork of different regulations. However, a centralisation of power to Brussels, plus a new European bureaucracy, is not the answer.

"There is a real risk that proposals designed to reinforce independent regulation at the national level will be undermined at the European level.”

Ofcom director of international Alex Blowers will be a key speaker at a review of the proposals to be held at Westminster on December 5, along with UK government and EU representatives, to debate how the EU proposals would affect the UK market.

The proposals will be debated in the European Parliament and by member state governments. The revised rules must be incorporated into national law before taking effect. The new framework is expected to be in place from 2010 onwards.