European Competitive Telecommunications Association

New Report finds competitive telecoms market drives EU economic recoveryEffective regulation and open telecoms market earn the Netherlands top place in telecoms scorecard. Dutch consumers benefit from better services, lower prices and high broadband usage

Brussels, 27 May 2010: Countries with the most effective telecoms regulation have open and competitive markets that foster higher broadband penetration, which generates more jobs and boosts economic growth. National Regulators need to be better equipped to take consistent action, finds the 2010 Regulatory Scorecard published by pro-competition body ECTA.

The result of varied levels of competition in telecoms is lower global competitiveness that will hold back economic recovery in Europe. EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes has emphasized the role ICT can play in driving Europe’s economy and Telecoms Ministers from across the EU27 should address this during the Council meeting in Brussels on 31 May.

Of particular concern, are the disparate approaches to the regulation of ‘next generation’ fibre access networks. Next Generation Networks (NGNs), are key enablers for high-speed broadband - a key objective of the EU2020 Strategy and European Digital Agenda 1. Current regulatory approaches range from: explicit restrictions on access adopted in Germany and Spain; lack of any regulatory action in a number of Member States, to measures to ‘unbundle’ fibre allowing more choice for consumers in the Netherlands.

"The forthcoming Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access networks (NGA Recommendation) is a key opportunity for the Commission to eliminate inconsistencies fragmenting the single market and incentivize open and competitive fibre networks like best practice Netherlands .This would unlock the sector’s potential for economic growth and drive economic recovery” commented Hubertus von Roenne, chairman of ECTA, the European Competitive Telecoms Association.

"Commission guidance is crucial to reinvigorate competition and ensure that the most fundamental single market principles, such as non-discrimination and access to bottleneck infrastructure at fair prices, are applied consistently across Europe,” he continued.

The annual Scorecard, to be released on June 1 in the European Parliament is produced in consultation with National Regulatory Authorities and telecoms companies, and benchmarks the telecoms regulatory framework in 22 European countries.  Results show that in the most competitive markets where non-discrimination is strongly enforced and competitors have access to bottleneck infrastructure at fair prices, such as the Netherlands, the UK and Denmark, citizens and businesses get better services at lower prices resulting in high broadband usage. By contrast, entrants in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria face the most difficult market conditions and lag behind EU average on broadband take-up. (Full rankings are shown below).

These findings are underpinned by the market data recently published by the Commission in its Competitiveness Report: consumers pay an average of €17 per month in the Netherlands for a basic broadband connection (4-8 Mbps), but have to pay €34 for the same service in Poland and €61 in Portugal. A more advanced, high speed triple play product offering internet, TV and telephone costs €65 in the Netherlands, €83 in Germany and €105 in Spain 2. 

The report posed more than 110 questions and revealed divergences including:

  • The time to port a telephone number ranges from 1 day in Ireland to 23 days in Poland;
  • The price for a competitor to access the ‘local loop’ of a dominant firm ranged from €67 per year in Poland to approx. €220 in Ireland;
  • The price for a basket of services for an ‘average user’ of mobile was € 10 in the Netherlands and € 36 in Spain; 
    · Some national regulators have no power to fine dominant firms that breach their obligations directly whilst others can apply penalties of up to 10% of turnover;
  • No national regulator has full and  explicit powers to impose  the structural or functional separation of the incumbent; and
  • In some markets there is a lack of transparency of published accounts of dominant firms and, consequently, competitors are not even able to check if they were price squeezed or charged discriminatory prices.

Consumers benefit from better telecoms services and higher investment levels in countries where the national telecoms regulatory authority has strong powers and is active in using them. The Netherlands is the most well connected country in Europe thanks to a pro-active regulator and an open and competitive telecoms market, which ensures that Dutch consumers and businesses benefit from low prices, broad choice and high broadband speeds.

"Now more than ever, the Commission and national decision makers need to help consumers and businesses through the economic crisis by stimulating investment and innovation by all players, lowering costs and boosting business productivity. The results of the Regulatory Scorecard have repeatedly shown that poor enforcement  or relaxation of rules, and giving gaming flexibility to dominant telecoms firms, is not the way to deliver any of these objectives.”

Inconsistent availability of essential high-speed business connections makes the seamless connection of European multi-national corporations – large and small - very difficult, undermining competitiveness and increasing the cost of doing business across Europe. The European Commission’s recent Implementation Report  shows that competition in the broadband market has stalled and investment has slowed, with some dominant firms having both increased their market share and reported strong financial results.

ECTA urges the European Commission to use the NGA Recommendation and the implementation of its Digital Agenda to create an open and competitive single market for high-speed services benefitting all European consumers and businesses.

Von Roenne concluded: "The most valuable contribution that telecoms policy-makers can make towards Europe’s progress is to provide certainty for the whole market by focusing on the goal of at least one fibre ‘superhighway’ to each home and office that is effectively regulated with terms that allow a fair return for all investors but do not discriminate in incumbents’ favour, as is done in top-of- the-class Holland.”

http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/581&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

2 BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS COST (BIAC) report, Second half of 2009, Prices as at 1-15 October 2009, Median offer for 4-8 Mbps and Median offer for Bundle "Internet access+Tel+TV"Basket 20+Mbps.

http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/602&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

Ends

For further information please contact Erzsebet Fitori, Senior Manager Regulatory Affairs, ECTA Tel: +32 2 227 1156

About ECTA
The European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) looks after the regulatory and commercial interests of new entrant telecoms operators, ISPs and suppliers of products and services to the communications industry.

ECTA works for a fair regulatory environment that allows all electronic communications providers to compete on level terms in order to multiply investment and innovation throughout an effective European internal market.  The association represents the telecommunications industry to key government and regulatory bodies and maintains a forum for networking and business development. 
ECTA  member companies include operators, service providers and suppliers as well as National Associations of such which all contribute towards regulatory policy development and participate in our comprehensive range of networking events, conferences, seminars, briefings and executive meetings. www.ectaportal.com

An overview of the main results follows:

Scorecard summary

ECTA's 2009 Regulatory Scorecard can be found in full by clicking here

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