On the 18th of March 2014, the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee voted on the Telecoms Single Market Regulation as proposed by the European Commission in September 2013. The Telecoms Regulation aims to bring European citizens closer to a single market for telecoms in the EU. Among the things that have been included in this regulatory package, one can find an end to roaming charges, an obligation to open the Internet for all and to achieve real net neutrality by banning blocking and degradation of content, coordination of spectrum licensing for wireless broadband, giving Internet and broadband customers more transparency in their contracts, and obligations on telecoms operators to make it easier for customers to switch between service providers.
As much as this is good news for consumers, it is bad news for operators who will see their revenues from roaming, traditionally a lucrative area of business, yet again. Given the additional costs involved in building an extensive infrastructure to relay data over long distances, roaming in certain scantly-inhabited areas might not make economic sense any longer and might therefore require universal service obligations or government subsidies to ensure provision of service or continuity thereof.
The revenue impact on mobile to VOIP substitution is not as yet clear as higher demand for data might ensue to offset the decline in roaming voice traffic.
The Telecoms Regulation is next due to be voted on by all MEPs on the 3rd of April of 2014. Meanwhile, EU Member States and their National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) are discussing the Regulation in working groups at the BEREC level. The Commission expects final agreement of the Regulation by the end of 2014.
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