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Access to electronic communications networks

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Access to electronic communications networks

This directive harmonises the way in which EU countries regulate access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities. It establishes a regulatory framework for the relationships between suppliers of networks and services that will result in sustainable competition and interoperability of electronic communications services.

ACT

Directive 2002/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities (access directive).

SUMMARY

Along with 4 other directives (the framework, authorisation, universal service, and privacy and electronic communications directives), the access directive forms part of the telecoms package, which defines the regulatory framework that aims to make the electronic communications networks and services sector more competitive.

In 2009, the telecoms package was amended by the better law-making and citizens’ rights directives, as well as by the creation of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

Application

The directive applies to all forms of public communication networks carrying publicly available electronic communications services. These include fixed and mobile telecommunications networks, networks used for terrestrial broadcasting, cable TV networks, and satellite and Internet networks used for voice, fax, data and image transmission.

General principle

EU countries must ensure that there are no restrictions which prevent undertakings in the same Member State or in different Member States from negotiating between themselves agreements on access and/or interconnection subject to competition rules in the treaty.

The general principle provides that, in markets where there continue to be large differences in negotiating power between undertakings, it is appropriate to establish a framework based on internal market principles and competition rules to act as an instrument for market regulation.

Adopting a technologically neutral approach, the objectives are to:

  • establish a framework which will encourage competition and foster efficient investment in network infrastructure by enabling adequate access to and interconnection of networks and interoperability of services in the interest of end users;
  • ensure that any bottlenecks in the market do not limit the emergence of innovative services that could benefit the users.

Operators’ rights and obligations

The directive lays down a fundamental rule whereby operators of public communications networks have a right and, when requested by other undertakings so authorised, an obligation to negotiate interconnection with each other in order to ensure service interoperability throughout the European Union.

The national regulatory authorities (NRAs) are responsible for carrying out regular market analyses in order to determine whether one or more operators have significant power in the market in question. Where, following a market analysis, an operator is identified as having significant power in a given market, the NRAs will impose one or more of the following obligations on that operator, according to the circumstances.

  • 1Obligations of transparency in relation to interconnection and/or access requiring operators to make public specified information such as accounting information, technical specifications or network characteristics, if appropriate by way of a reference offer.
  • 2Obligations of non-discrimination to ensure that operators apply equivalent conditions in equivalent circumstances to undertakings providing equivalent services, including a ban on favouring their own services.
  • 3Obligations of accounting separation in relation to specified activities concerning interconnection and/or access.
  • 4Obligations of access to, and use of, specific network facilities. Operators may be required to:
    • give third parties access to specified network elements and/or facilities, including unbundled access to the local loop;
    • negotiate in good faith with undertakings requesting access;
    • not withdraw access to facilities already granted;
    • grant open access to technical interfaces, protocols or other key technologies that are indispensable for the interoperability of services;
    • provide co-location or other forms of associated facility sharing;
    • give access to associated services such as those related to identity, location and presence service.
  • 5Obligations relating to cost recovery and price controls, including obligations regarding cost orientation of prices and obligations concerning cost-accounting systems.

Where market failures persist in spite of the application of these obligations, the NRAs may, as a last resort, require a vertically integrated undertaking to place its activities relating to the wholesale provision of access products and services in an independently operating business entity.

This functionally independent entity must supply access products and services to all undertakings, including to other business entities within the parent company, on the same timescales, terms and conditions, including those relating to price and service levels, and by means of the same systems and processes.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2002/19/EC

24.4.2002

24.7.2003

OJ L 108 of 24.4.2002

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2009/140/EC

19.12.2009

25.5.2011

OJ L 337 of 18.12.2009

AMENDMENT TO THE ANNEXES

Annex II - Minimum list of items to be included in a reference offer for wholesale network infrastructure access, including shared or fully unbundled access to the local loop at a fixed location to be published by notified operators with significant market power (SMP).

Directive 2009/140/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, and 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (Official Journal L 337 of 18 December 2009).

Corrigendum to Directive 2009/140/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, and 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (OJ L 241 of 10 September 2013).

RELATED ACTS

Commission guidelines on the market analysis and the assessment of significant market power under the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Official Journal C 165 of 11 July 2002).

Under the regulatory framework on communications services, these guidelines lay down the principles on which the national regulatory authorities must base their market analysis in order to guarantee effective competition.

PROPOSALS

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a connected continent, and amending Directives 2002/20/EC, 2002/21/EC and 2002/22/EC and Regulations (EC) No 1211/2009 and (EU) No 531/2012 (COM(2013) 627 final of 11 September 2013 - not published in the Official Journal).

Last updated: 03.07.2014

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