ETNO lobbies incoming EU leadership for telco-friendly regs

The European election results are still yet to be fully finalised, but telco lobby group ETNO is wasting no time getting its agenda in front of the EU's new leaders.

Nick Wood

June 27, 2024

3 Min Read

Responding to the European Commission's February white paper, How to master Europe's digital infrastructure needs, ETNO doubled down on its support for most if not all of the suggestions it makes.

The main thrust of ETNO's response is that in order to regain its competitiveness on the global stage, Europe needs a regulatory framework that encourages the emergence of large-scale telcos with the means to spend heavily on networks, and harmonised rules that foster seamless cross-border services.

As such, ETNO says a rethink is required on what constitutes a dominant player. ETNO wants to do away with the idea of significant market power (SMP) and instead rely on general competition law and symmetric rules by default, only resorting to ex-ante obligations as a last resort. Unsurprisingly, the group has also called for a review of EU merger regulations.

There's no mention of what effect all this could have on prices and innovation if telco whales get permission to swallow their diminutive rivals. Presumably the idea is that there will be some sort of trickle-down effect, where innovation and low prices flow naturally from scale, motivated by benevolence rather than having to compete in any sort of meaningful way.

ETNO is also supportive of the EU's idea for harmonised spectrum rules, with license conditions, fees, award and renewal processes all designed to promote network investment.

It also repeats – again – the argument for a level regulatory playing field for telcos and online service providers, and called for a dispute resolution process that sees content application providers (CAPs) compensate network operators for IP data transport services.

ETNO would also like the EU to make more and better-coordinated funding programmes available for AI-ready cloud infrastructure, Open RAN and subsea cables.

All of this is very much in step with what the EU put out in February, and revisits the same well-trodden ground upon which ETNO and other big telcos have been pacing up down for decades now.

However, with a new Commission in the offing, and rejig of the European Parliament, it doesn't hurt to refresh a few memories.

"ETNO, the Association representing Europe's leading telecom operators, urges the new European leadership to take swift action and to substantially adjust the telecom and competition policies in order to strengthen the connectivity ecosystem," the group said.

"Europe is one of the most digitised economies and societies globally. However, with the EU share in the global ICT market having dropped by 10 percent since 2013 [European Commission, 2023], we have fallen behind global peers in innovation and investment in the connectivity ecosystem."

With ETNO backing up the outgoing Commission's ideas for revamping the sector, you could be forgiven for thinking that industry and government are all pulling in the same direction for once. That's not the case though, with Ecta – which lobbies on behalf of smaller, challenger brands – emphasising earlier this week that Europe's telecoms market is doing well enough under the current structure, and that diversity and competition are the driving forces of innovation and affordability.

Historically when it comes to telecoms, EU lawmakers have tended to come down in favour of pro-consumer, pro-competition regulations, much to the discomfort of the big telco groups, and to the benefit of the sort of players that Ecta represents. But with new EU leadership on the way, it's all to play for.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

Get the latest news straight to your inbox.
Register for the newsletter here.

You May Also Like