European operators fire 5G warning at EU

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

The CEOs of some of Europe's biggest mobile operators have joined with the GSMA to call on the EU to introduce longer spectrum licenses to drive investment

European mobile operators have upped pressure on Brussels to end resistance to longer spectrum licences by saying a failure to do so could discourage investment.

The letter, signed by the CEOs of some of Europe’s biggest telcos, called on the EU to carry out “genuine spectrum reform” with ministers due to meet in Tallinn, Estonia on 18 July to discuss 5G deployment plans.

The CEOs of Deutsche Telekom, KPN, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telekom Austria, Telenor Group, Telia Company, Vodafone Group, and the GSMA signed an open letter asking for the introduction of a minimum spectrum licence length of 25 years.

It is the latest move by European telcos, who have warned that Europe faces falling behind other developed markets in deploying 5G if it fails to reform spectrum.

The letter said: “As leaders of the mobile industry in Europe and ahead of your Informal Ministerial Meeting on the 18th of July 2017, we would like to express our deep concerns regarding current discussions on the spectrum elements of the proposed European Electronic Communication Code.

“We see this as an unprecendented chance to champion genuine spectrum policy reform, that will position Europe as a true global leader.”

The letter outlines four suggestions for reform that the operators want EU regulators to look at. These are:

The introduction of clear provisions addressing the predictability of future rights, notably minimum license duration of 25 years coupled with a strong presumption of renewal;

An effective and efficient peer-review mechanism to spur the sharing of best practice over award design and procedures;

The ability to compete, innovate and differentiate through voluntary spectrum sharing;

A fee structure that reflects efficient and effective use of the spectrum as well as coverage commitments.

The MNOs warned the EU that Europe is “at a crossroads” which could either see it become a leader in 5G technology, or fall behind markets such as the US and Asia.

The EC has previously tried to coordinated spectrum allocation across the 28 member states, but around half of the member states are believed to oppose the Commission’s plans to establish a 25-year licence.

Ministers have also expressed caution about introducing peer review proposals, calling for a lighter touch approach to cross-Europe regulation.

The operators argue that longer licences would allow them to commit to more investment, but failure to introduce these changes will hinder their ability to carry out large scale deployments and compete with US rivals.

A cross-industry letter, sent last month, made similar demands, accusing the EU of taking a “timid” approach to 5G.