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EU Policy. National governments wary of proposed telecom market consolidation

Belgian ministers Petra De Sutter and Mathieu Michel
Belgian ministers Petra De Sutter and Mathieu Michel Copyright Philippe BUISSIN/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP
Copyright Philippe BUISSIN/ European Union 2024 - Source : EP
By Cynthia Kroet
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The European Commission is expected to come with a formal plan for a new telecom law in the autumn.

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EU national governments are reluctant to agree to a European Commission proposal that will pave the way for telecom market consolidation under a future Digital Networks Act, Belgian Telecom Minister Petra De Sutter said today (12 April).

Speaking after an informal meeting of telecom ministers hosted in Belgium’s Louvain-La-Neuve, De Sutter said governments are concerned about “giving up some of their national authority”.

“We need to go towards the completion of a digital single market. How would you do that? To increase collaboration there are several instruments, or another option is market consolidation. We had good discussions on that, but member states are reluctant for this,” she said.

The discussions come after the European Commission on 21 February launched a new round of discussions on the future of digital infrastructure, paving the way for a new telecom law for the next mandate. The executive wants to address problems with connectivity, spectrum and investment, as new technological applications require more and more data processing and storage.

Euronews reported last month that countries are mostly sceptical about an overhaul of the Union’s telecom rules, and question the need for faster and more 5G connections.

De Sutter said that there was a general alignment of the goals of the plans; the need for more an upgrade of telecom infrastructure to meet the needs of connectivity and security standards.

“We still need a lot of discussion on the issue of more EU management of spectrum too [...] we have done a lot of regulatory work during the last years. Maybe we need more time before we get new rules; that is a concern we heard from the member states too.” 

Proposal

Speaking at the same press conference, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton underscored that there was a shared sense of urgency. “Speed was mentioned by the member states. We don’t have much time to achieve our 2030 connectivity goals,” Breton said.

“We saw some good alignment but on the internal market plans [of the white paper], we need more work. We will work on the scenarios and come up with proposals at the beginning of the autumn,” he added.

At their next meeting in Brussels, telecom ministers will adopt conclusions on the future of digital policy, as Euronews reported earlier this week (8 April); this will mostly serve as a stocktaking document for the new Commission, which will take office after the June EU elections.

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