After much deliberation, the EU approved new telecom rules at the end of last year to encourage the rapid rollout of 5G and other leading-edge communications technologies around Europe, cap call prices and launch an emergency alert system.
These technologies, designed to champion innovation and increase consumer protection in all forms of digital communication, include the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) and an amended remit for the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communication (BEREC). The Council has also approved plans for a public alert system and price caps for calls and text messages sent within the EU.
These modifications help reinforce commitments to ensuring high-quality internet and mobile access for all EU citizens – and to strengthen the bloc’s ability to be competitive and connected on the global spectrum.
The European Electronic Communications Code
The EECC covers areas such as operators’ access to networks, spectrum allocation, and symmetric regulation of every network provider. It also includes means to stimulate competition and encourage investments in high capacity networks.
The code includes a new definition of ‘electronic communications services’ to include ‘internet society services’ – in other words, services offered or provided over the internet (OTT) like social media messaging apps. These “number-independent interpersonal communications services” will be regulated, although more lightly than traditional, number-dependent services. As a result, services such as Skype and WhatsApp will be required to comply with some of the same regulatory requirements imposed on traditional telcos.
Member states will be required to institute specific rules for compensation or penalties in the event that a provider of electronic communications services is found guilty of misconduct.
Pending successful rollout of 112 as a European-wide emergency number, all member states will be required to establish a public alert system in order to better protect their residents. This ‘Reverse 112’ system will be programmed to send automatic alerts or warnings to mobile phones should there be threat of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or some other major emergency in their geographic region. This public warning system needs to be in place no later than 3 ½ years after the EECC comes into effect.
Commenting after the announcement, the European Emergency Number Association’s (EENA) Public Affairs Manager, Benoit Vivier, said: “Take any of the large emergencies in Europe and you will realise that in most cases modern public warning was not in place. We have the means and the technology but we have largely failed to put them to good use. The new legislation ensures that from now on we do.”
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communication
Regulatory body BEREC is adopting a stronger position in the plight to bring high-capacity networks to the EU and will strive to contribute to the consistent application of the regulations enforced in the EECC.
Changes to the rules for intra-EU calling include a cap on the cost of fixed or mobile calls between all countries in the EU at a rate of 19 cents per minute. Text messages sent within the EU will also be capped at a rate of 6 cents per message. These new rates will come into effect as early as May 15 2019.