A new framework for electronic communications services


To review European Union regulation in the telecommunications sector and propose the main elements of a new framework for communications infrastructure and associated services.

2) ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 10 November 1999. Towards a new framework for Electronic Communications infrastructure and associated services - The 1999 Communications Review [COM(1999) 539 final, 10.11.1999 - Not published in the Official Journal].


The liberalisation of Europe's telecommunications market reached its peak on 1 January 1998 with the complete liberalisation of all telecommunications networks and services in virtually all Member States. The developments in technology, innovation in the services being offered, price reductions and improvements in quality brought about by the introduction of competition provided the basis for Europe's transition to the Information Society. The convergence of the telecommunications, broadcasting and IT sectors is reshaping the communications market; in particular the convergence of fixed, mobile, terrestrial and satellite communications, and communication and positioning/location systems. From the point of view of communications infrastructure and related services, convergence makes the traditional separation of regulatory functions between these sectors increasingly inappropriate and calls for a coherent regulatory regime.

In this context, this Communication presents a review of the current regulatory framework for communications and responds to the need for a more horizontal approach to regulation of communications infrastructure revealed in the course of the consultation on convergence. It also takes account of the key ideas in, for example, the consultation on the Radio Spectrum Green Paper, the report on the development of the market for digital television in the European Union and the fifth report on the implementation of the telecommunications regulatory package.

Five principles will underpin the new regulatory framework and govern regulatory action at Community and national level. They are that the future regulation should:

Taking into account the five principles, the Commission sees the new regulatory framework structured along the following lines:

In parallel, the Directives based on Article 86 of the Treaty will be simplified and codified into one legal measure.

Starting from these general principles, this Communication sets out the Commission's provisional positions on each area of its regulatory policy, and seeks the views of all interested parties on its proposals by 15 February 2000. In the light of the comments received, the Commission will produce proposals to amend the current framework in the first half of 2000.

With regard to binding, sector-specific legislation, the future regulatory framework provides for the elaboration of a new Framework Directive which will, inter alia:

The Framework Directive will be accompanied by four specific directives based on Article 95 of the Treaty:

Competition Law will become increasingly important in this sector and replace much of the sectoral regulation once competition becomes established on the market.

This Communication also proposes substantial amendments to existing legislation designed to deal with problems relevant to the new regulatory framework.

These changes concern the following aspects:

Licences and authorisations

The Commission stresses the need to reduce administrative barriers to market entry with a view to promoting a competitive European market for telecommunications services. In particular, it proposes:

Access and interconnection

In Community legislation, "access" is a generic concept covering all forms of access to publicly available networks and services, whereas "interconnection" refers to the physical and logical linking of networks. Rules for access and interconnection ensure interoperability and are essential to allow competition to become established. The Commission recognises the fundamental importance of the provision of access and interconnection services, and therefore proposes:

Management of radio spectrum

Given the considerable demand for the use of the radio spectrum in a number of sectors such as telecommunications, but also transport, public safety, broadcasting and R&D, the current methods of allocating frequencies and licences are proving inefficient. In the light of the importance of the radio spectrum for the development of communications services, and its limited availability, the Commission takes the view that

Universal service

The current regulatory framework requires NRAs to place obligations on network operators to ensure that a defined minimum set of services of a specified quality are available to all, independent of their geographical location, at an affordable price. Universal service, as currently defined in Community legislation, includes the provision of voice telephony, fax and voice band data transmission via modems (i.e. access to the Internet).

The Commission recognises the importance of universal service and proposes:

The interests of users and consumers

The current regulatory framework contains a number of provisions which aim to protect the interests of users and consumers in general. There are also a number of horizontal consumer protection directives at European level which apply to all sectors, including telecommunications. In this sector, the Commission proposes:

Numbering, naming and addressing

Current Community legislation identifies elements of a harmonised approach to numbering, naming and addressing, and stresses the importance of guaranteeing Europe-wide end-to-end interconnection of users and interoperability of services. In this connection, the Commission proposes:

Specific competition issues

Sector-specific rules, in conjunction with the application of competition rules, facilitate market entry where the incumbent operators continue to have strong positions, and serve to ensure that new entrants can compete effectively. The key issue is therefore to establish the right balance between sector-specific regulation and the competition rules. In particular, it will be appropriate for sector-specific regulation to make more use of competition law concepts like dominant position, under Article 82 of the Treaty, for example in the case of cost-orientation and non-discrimination obligations.

Institutional issues

The regulatory model outlined in this Communication implies increased delegation of decision-making to NRAs with a view to ensuring the implementation of the framework as close as possible to the market in the Member States. The model thus requires a balancing mechanism in the form of greater coordination of the decisions and views of NRAs at European Union level.

In this context, the Commission proposes:

4) implementing measures

Communication - COM(2000) 239 final Commission communication on the results of the public consultation on the 1999 communications review and orientations for the new regulatory framework

The consultation highlighted broad agreement in respect of some policy proposals and differing views in respect of others. A large majority of interested parties are in favour of the following proposals:

Areas where there were differing views are as follows:

On the basis of all these considerations, the Commission will propose five Directives in June 2000, comprising a framework Directive and four other specific Directives covering licensing and authorisations, access and interconnection, universal service consumers' and users' rights and telecoms data protection. The main principles that the Commission will take into account are as follows:

5) follow-up work

Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications) [Official Journal L 201 of 31 July 2002]

Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive) [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002]

Directive 2002/20/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (Authorisation Directive) [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002]

Directive 2002/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive) [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002]

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) [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002]

Decision 676/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community (Radio Spectrum Decision) [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002]

Last updated: 02.12.2003