In recent decades, EU action for telecommunications has led to greater consumer choice, falling call costs, and higher standards of service, through:
- A sound regulatory framework for electronic communications, promoting competition and consumer rights;
- Promoting investment in broadband networks supporting high-speed Internet;
- Supporting wireless technologies, such as 3G and LTE, through the radio spectrum policy programme;
- Protecting mobile users from high roaming charges when travelling in the EU or internationally;
- Taking a leading role in international discussions on Internet development and governance.
In September 2015, the European Commission launched public consultations on the broadband needs and on the review of the current telecoms framework. The Commission then presented its proposal on how to address the identified challenges in achieving a Gigabit society and the way telecoms sector regulation could be adapted to support it.
The Commission therefore proposed a new European Electronic Communications Code including forward-looking and simplified rules that make it more attractive for all companies to invest in new top-quality infrastructures, everywhere in the EU, both locally and across national borders. The Code further stimulates competition, and strengthens the internal market as well as consumer rights. The Commission also presented an action plan to deploy 5G, the fifth generation of wireless communication systems, across the EU as from 2018.
The Code proposes:
- Clear and inclusive rules: the same rules will apply all over Europe with a vision of an inclusive single market where consumers enjoy the same level of protection and have access to affordable communication services, including broadband;
- Better quality: the Code will foster competition for investments, meaning higher connection speeds and higher coverage; the proposed rules are fit for the next generation of mobile systems and for Wi-Fi users to really have quality of experience;
- Better prices: by multiplying the offers available and bringing more capacity, we expect unit prices to go down;
- More services: more and more actors provide communication services; the Code proposes a light regulatory approach which allows all actors, from traditional telecom operators to online players, to provide interpersonal communication services with the same level of protection for the end-user.
The Commission has also proposed to reinforce the role of national regulators to ensure consistent and predictable application of the rules throughout the Digital Single Market, via new Regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC). The connectivity package also includes an initiative aiming at helping European communities offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to their citizens.