Telecoms leader: Voice apps are now ‘serious competitors’

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In its forthcoming regulatory update, the European Commission should take account of internet competition to the telecoms industry, says Daniel Pataki, director of the European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO).

Daniel Pataki is director of ETNO. He is a former president of Hungary’s National Communications Authority, the European Regulators Group (ERG) and the EU’s Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG). He spoke to EURACTIV’s Jeremy Fleming in Brussels.

You held a regulatory workshop on 25 April. What regulations were you considering?

The Commission is currently revising its recommendation on relevant markets, which it last updated in 2007. This relates to the list of relevant wholesale and retail telecoms markets subject to the Commission's "Article 7" procedure under EU telecoms rules. These markets include retail access to the public telephone network and wholesale broadband access. Having a list of relevant markets helps National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) regulate their markets in a coordinated manner.

The review will take into account major market and technological developments, such as internet-based applications and services, the convergence between different types of networks and services and the development of very fast internet networks and services.

The Commission is working on its first proposal for relevant markets update and we wanted to debate that and the other key issue is the single market for telecoms, because now that there is a Council decision the Commission is working closely with preparing that for October, we wanted to get stakeholder debate going.

Why do relevant markets matter?

Relevant markets are a short medium-term tool for reform in Europe before bigger change may come. So we are looking forward to these changes: the online applications are creating big competition. In the past few years, as the research we published during the workshop showed, voice communications apps like Skype have now become serious competitors for fixed and mobile voice, there is also competition from cable and fibre.

So we believe there are no longer bottlenecks for the retail voice market because there is so much competition. We therefore want the telecoms retail market removed from the relevant markets list. This would be a sign of how deregulation can go ahead, especially in the context of the Commission’s broader single market plans. Where there is no platform competition, that is where regulators should pay attention. A study that we released through Plum Consulting showed clearly how the markets have evolved and how competition is increasing.

What do ETNO members want from the Commission’s move for a single market for telecoms?

We think that Europe’s regulatory regime has been very successful in one way: at bringing down consumer prices, and Europe has amongst the world’s lowest prices for telecoms. But at a time when investment is needed much more than before, and because of the technological changes and also when global competition is increasing from internet players, we see Commissioner [Neelie] Kroes’ announcement of a single market as a symbol that some things need to be changed against this backdrop.

The next few months is a short time period but a chance for the industry and stakeholders to think about what a new paradigm for the telecommunications industry will look like.

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