TELECOMMUNICATIONS : OPEN LETTER CALLS ON EU TO LEAVE MOBILE COMPANIES IN PEACE.
While the merger wars are raging in Europe, the bloc's ten largest mobile telephony operators(1) have joined forces to write an open letter to Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Under the leadership of their association, GSMA, the operators have called on the EU to leave them in peace to carry out their mergers, and to lift a ten-year-old statutory yoke.
The EU's competition policy should "support market-driven restructuring and consolidation" if it wants to support competitiveness, states the letter.a This approach is the opposite of the hard line taken by Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia regarding the purchase of E-Plus by Telefonica in Germany, and Hutchison Whampoa's buyout of the Austrian subsidiary of Orange (see Europolitics 4821).
"We hope that market restructuring will be enabled by the simplification of legislation on mergers, and by reducing the number of remedies the Commission can impose," Martin Whitehead, European director of GSMA, told Europolitics.a
European anti-trust policy is considered all the more restrictive when it comes to new entrants on the market, such as Skype and WhatsApp, which are not subject to the same rules. EU legislation should therefore be harmonised and should apply consistently "irrespective of the technology being used, who is providing the service, or where individuals are located," says the letter.
Therefore, the same restrictions should apply to all - but should be less binding for mobile phone operators. The ten mobile chiefs want to be free to "develop new business models, innovate at the network and service levels" - in other words to develop specialised online services, depending on 'net neutrality', which is currently being debated as part of the telecoms package.
The telecoms leaders also want more space and time to use thespectrum, the rare and desirable commodity used to develop high-speed information exchanges. "We support the Commission's proposals to guarantee the length of frequency licences, and to introduce more harmonisation at European level," explained Anne Bouverot, director-general of GSMA. Operators say this is a necessary framework to secure long-term investment in the networks.
They are reassured by the position taken by MEPs so far concerning the spectrum, but on the other hand, the debate that will begin between member states - which are strongly attached to their sovereignity regarding the spectrum - over the next few weeks could be "more complicated,' said Bouverot.
(1) Deutsche Telekom AG, Hutchison Whampoa Europe, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telekom Austria Group, Telenor Group, TeliaSonera, VimpelCom and Vodafone
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|Date:||Mar 10, 2014|
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