European Regulators Group
Work Programme 2003
On January 23 2003 the European Regulators Group for Electronic Communications Networks and Services agreed its work programme for 2003. The work programme sets the priorities for action by national regulatory authorities to ensure a consistent implementation of the new regulatory framework by July 2003, in conformity with the tasks granted to the European Regulators Group.
The European Regulators Group was set up by a decision of the European Commission of July 29 2002 (Decision 2002/627/EC). It was foreseen explicitly under Recital 36 of the Framework Directive (2002/21/EC) as one of the key components of the new regulatory policy on electronic communications. The group first met on October 25 2002, when the chairman of the Dutch national regulatory authority, Jens Arnbak, was elected chairman of the group.
The European Regulators Group is composed of the heads or representatives of the national regulatory authorities of all member states. Experts from both the candidate countries for accession and European Economic Area (EEA) member states have been granted the status of observers. A representative of the European Commission always attends the group's meetings (Article 4 of the decision).
The European Regulators Group aims to provide an interface between national regulatory authorities and the commission. It advises and assists the commission on matters related to e-communications networks and services, on the basis of national regulatory authorities' experience and consultations with both industry and consumers. As an advisory body, it gives non-binding opinions to the commission on its own initiative or at the commission's request. In addition, the group provides for an open and transparent cooperation mechanism between national regulatory authorities and with the commission.
Under the new regulatory framework, national regulatory authorities have been granted new powers and have been given a large number of tasks. For instance, they are responsible for:
- defining markets and designating significant market power (SMP) operators (Articles 14 and 15 of the Framework Directive);
- choosing the obligations which need to be imposed on SMP operators in respect of interconnection (Article 8(2) of the Access Directive (2002/19/EC)); and
- establishing an accounting mechanism ensuring the provision of universal service in a cost-effective and fairly financed manner (Article 12 of the Universal Service Directive (2002/22/EC)).
Cooperation between national regulatory authorities and the European Commission is therefore necessary to ensure a consistent application of the new regulatory framework. In particular, Article 7(2) of the Framework Directive foresees such cooperation in respect of the types of instruments and remedies to be chosen to implement the new regulatory framework. The European Regulators Group has a key role to play in allowing such cooperation in coordination with the other advisory and consultative bodies established under the new regulatory framework (ie, the Radio Spectrum Committee, the Radio Spectrum Policy Group and the Television without Frontiers Contact Committee).
As the European Regulators Group was only recently established, most of its tasks are currently carried out by the Independent Regulators Group. The Independent Regulators Group is an informal working group established in 1997. It gathers representatives of 29 national regulatory authorities, including those from the 10 accession countries and from the EEA countries. It is not an advisory body to the commission, but is rather a forum where national regulatory authorities share information and experiences on a number of issues related to the development of telecommunications markets. It promotes harmonized implementation of the regulation of the sector, in particular through the adoption of "principles of implementation and best practices".
The European Regulators Group's work programme follows a public consultation launched on October 25 2002 on the areas of priority for the harmonization of regulatory measures adopted by national regulatory authorities.
The work programme first focuses on the implementation of the new regulatory framework in respect of market definition, the designation of SMP operators and the assessment of competition on markets. The European Regulators Group will seek to determine a set of parameters gathered in a handbook that national regulatory authorities will use to analyze markets and assess the degree of regulation needed. The group will work on a common position on both the concept of SMP and on the remedies to impose on SMP operators. It will also advise the commission on the definition of transnational markets to be published in a commission decision (Article 15(4) of the Framework Directive).
The European Regulators Group's approach towards the mobile sector is dealt with in a specific section. As requested by the commission, the European Regulators Group will report on the status of third generation mobile services deployment and advise on necessary changes to the existing regulations. The group will also seek a common approach on a method to ensure reasonable tariffs for mobile termination. In respect of international roaming, the group will launch a joint action by national regulatory authorities to ensure transparent and cost-related prices.
The third topic deals with broadband services, including the promotion of broadband access and of unbundled access to the local loop, and the achievement of proper wholesale offers for leased lines. Further topics in the work programme cover the search of a common position on cost accounting methods across the European Union and further work in the area for network infrastructure sharing and spectrum trading.
Further areas discussed include the group's search for solutions to issues stemming from the diversity of the existing mechanism for both the designation of universal service operators and the funding of universal service. The group will also advise the commission on standard procedures to ensure network continuity and security, and on special requirements for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Most of these topics mirror some of the concerns expressed by the commission in its Eighth Implementation Report and, to a certain extent, the comments submitted by market players during the consultation process referred above.
For further information on this topic please contact Colin Long or Cecile Plaidy at Olswang by telephone (+44 20 7067 3000) or by fax (+44 20 7067 3999) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Olswang website can be accessed at www.olswang.com