European telcos warn Brussels over deregulation slowdown

James Pearce
Published on:

Operators urge EU regulators to push on with deregulation plans or risk harming investment in fibre and 5G

The leaders of some of the biggest telecoms operators in Europe have challenged the European Commission to press ahead with plans to deregulate the market, warning EU leaders that their plans for a digital single market will be under threat if they pull back.

The CEOs of Deutsche Telekom, BT, Orange, Telecom Italia, and Telefonica penned a joint letter to telecoms ministers warning that proposed amendments to plans to reform the Electronic Communications Code and ePrivacy Regulation would undermine efforts to drive more investment into fibre and 5G technologies.

The CEOs said they were writing to “express our concern regarding the current direction of the debate” on the reforms, warning the “initial strategic focus on investment and innovation appears lost”.

The original proposals set out last September by commissioners Andrus Ansip and Günther Oettinger were intended to scale back regulation and encourage telecoms groups to jointly invest in fibre networks and mobile connectivity in underserved regions. 

Despite this, lobby groups such as Open Democarcy have criticised the move, and it has met some resistance in the European Parliament over competition concerns. The parliament has added plans to regulate the price of international calling to the ECC, a proposal that could impact profits at a time telcos already face a loss of revenue from the Roam Like At Home proposals.

The letter, seen by GTB, claims this could cost as much as €660 billion to achieve ubiquitous superfast connectivity, adding this is “incompatible with any rules extracting value from the sector”.

The CEOs also challenged EU regulators to impose “fair and equal rules” to broaden customer choice in digital services. 

The letter, sent through the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, said: “Our companies will continue working with the whole digital ecosystem to make sure we deliver the Gigabit Society and Digital Single Market vision. We call on EU governments to support Europe’s digital economy with ambitious measures, based on unequivocally pro-innovation and pro-investment measures. 

“This will benefit European consumers and it will constitute a major enabler of global competitiveness and economic growth.”

The letter was co-signed by: Eelco Blok, Chairman and CEO, KPN; Sigve Brekke, President and CEO, Telenor Group; Edmond Brincat, acting CEO, Go Malta; Johan Dennelind, president and CEO, Telia Company; Paul Doany. CEO, Türk Telekom; Atanas Dobrev, CEO, Bulgarian Telecommunications Company; Timotheus Höttges, CEO, Deutsche Telekom; Dominique Leroy, CEO, Proximus; José María Alvarez Pallete, chairman and CEO, Telefónica; Gavin Patterson, CEO, BT Group; Alejandro Plater CEO, Telekom Austria Group; Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO, Orange; and Giuseppe Recchi, executive chairman, Telecom Italia.