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Telecoms Council

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2010

My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox) has today made the following statement:

“The Telecommunications Council took place in Brussels on 3 December and was chaired by the Belgian presidency.

I was unable to attend Council due to the travel disruption caused by the unseasonable weather conditions and I was represented at Council by Andy Lebrecht (UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU—UKREP) for the formal agenda items and by Martin Jones (UKREP) for the lunch-time discussion on roaming. An official from BIS also attended.

Lunch-time discussion on mobile roaming.

In order to inform and shape the debate, Ministers were asked to consider three questions on this issue and I enclose the full text within annex A to this statement. In summary, they covered issues related to: stimulating competition; the impact of new technologies; and whether a cap on retail data prices was an appropriate course of action.

I understand that the discussion was positive in nature and below is a summary of the main points made during the debate:

The Commission and most member states see the introduction of greater competition in the EU roaming market as the way to decrease what are regarded as relatively high prices for consumers;

However, price regulation was seen by both the Commission and most member states as the least preferred option;

A recognition that the recently agreed telecommunications framework package would not be re-opened in respect of mobile roaming;

Technology was seen as one way that might allow for a diversity of approaches to tackle this issue and would, therefore, bring down prices over time for consumers; and

It was preferable to adopt a solution that was based on a multi-stakeholder approach.

The UK’s contribution to the debate was as detailed in my pre-Council statement and confirmed the UK’s views that a solution may not necessarily involve regulation featuring retail price controls and that the UK preferred a solution based on a multi-stakeholder approach. I am pleased to report that these points were noted by Commissioner Kroes during her summing up of the debate.

Following lunch, the formal business of Council took place.

Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the first Radio Spectrum—Policy Programme Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP): A Progress Report and Exchange of Views. (EM 13872/10).

This discussion item focused on four previously issued questions and is attached within annex A. In summary, these questions covered: the contribution of efficient spectrum management towards Europe 2020 goals; if an inventory of EU spectrum would also contribute towards these goals; a commonly agreed date for release of certain spectrum bands and how to overcome problems associated with this; and the role of the EU in international spectrum negotiations.

The presidency began with a progress report on this item and was followed by Commissioner Kroes giving a short presentation of her views. The main points of which were:

She noted the importance of spectrum to both citizens and business—the main drivers being its contribution towards improving the EU’s global competitiveness and the social and quality life improvements it could bring through applications such as e-health;

Thus, it was no longer sustainable to “do nothing” and that it was important that member states needed to agree the bold proposals within the RSPP;

She also noted that many member states have specific issues with the proposed deadlines for clearing and authorising specific spectrum bands;

However, she indicated that she regarded the clearance of the 800 MHz spectrum—that currently associated with analogue television broadcasting—as a key step in making the Commission’s broadband strategy targets a reality (in particular the target associated with 30+Mbps—Ref: EM 13874/10) and she was keen not to see the stated deadline of 1 January 2013 slip;

She proposed that the Commission should have a greater role in international and bilateral negotiations regarding spectrum; and

Briefly covered the proposal to produce an inventory of spectrum currently used in the EU.

She concluded by stating the importance of reaching an early agreement on the RSPP.

Member states’ interventions then followed. The main points of UK’s intervention were:

Stressing the overall positive nature of the RSPP and its proposals;

We recognised that many member states, including UK, had issues regarding the deadline associated with the release of spectrum and that UK preferred an extension to the deadline associated with release of 800 MHz from January 2013 to January 2015;

UK also has concerns regarding the proposals covering “block sizes” of spectrum;

UK wished to review the Commission’s proposal on a spectrum inventory before commenting further but proposed that any inventory should cover both public and private spectrum holdings; and

That we regarded that matters relating to international spectrum negotiations as mainly a member state competency and that should remain the case.

Other member states’ interventions noted that the RSPP proposal was critical in making a positive contribution to the wider Europe 2020 strategy and generally shared UK’s concerns and supported our position on both spectrum release deadlines (especially for member states who share borders with non-EU states) and an increased role for the EU in international negotiations. However, a number of member states requested Commission assistance with negotiations with non-EU neighbours.

There was general support for UK’s call for local circumstances to be taken into account when considering spectrum release deadlines. Several member states indicated concerns regarding the necessary resource to undertake an inventory.

In her summing-up of the debate, Commissioner Kroes reiterated her preference for a January 2013 release date, but indicated the possibility of derogations for member states who share borders with non-EU states (a proposal that would not apply to nor resolve the UK’s issues with the proposed deadline).

Finally, during a final intervention, the presidency expressed concern that the Commission may not fully appreciate the extent of concerns of, and problems for member states associated with the proposed spectrum release deadlines.

Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 460/2004 establishing the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) as regards its duration—A Progress Report

Proposal for a Regulation concerning the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)—A Progress Report

These two items were progress reports from the Commission on the progress regarding these proposals. (Ref: EM 14322/10)

There was little discussion covering this item. However, the Commission stated that the modernisation of ENISA was essential and that the fight against cybercrime was a top priority. The only substantive intervention was from Greece—though supported by Cyprus and Bulgaria—who indicated a view that ENISA should have a permanent mandate, as opposed to the five years proposed. In response, the Commission indicated that the EU needed the flexibility of a time-limited mandate, given the rapidly changing nature of issues related to ENISA’s work. The UK did not intervene on this item.

Cross-fertilisation between the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives “A Digital Agenda for Europe” and “Innovation Union”—Adoption of Council Conclusions; and

European Broadband: investing in digitally driven growth—Adoption of Council Conclusions

These two Council conclusions were adopted without comment from any member states.

This item was followed by the “any other business” items, which were:

Report on the state of development of roaming services within the European UnionPresentation by the Commission;

Commissioner Kroes summarised the lunch-time discussion and stated that a dialogue with all stakeholders was necessary (a point made by the UK during lunch);

Internet Governance Forum (IGF)—Briefing by the Commission and the Presidency;

The Commission noted the positive outcome of the recent renewal of the mandate of the IGF by the United Nations and thanked Lithuania for hosting the most recent IGF;

The next Presidency’s programme and events—Briefing by the Hungarian delegation;

It was noted that the incoming presidency were planning an informal Ministerial meeting on infrastructure protection and that the next TTE Council would take place on 27 May 2011.

Other than noted above, there were no substantive points made on these three items and Council concluded following them.

ANNEX A—Questions for Discussion at Telecoms Council (Dec 2010)


1. Do the Ministers believe that spectrum should contribute to achieve the goals of EU 2020? In particular, should spectrum contribute to economic growth and to secure a competitive advantage in innovative wireless technologies, not only in the telecom sector but also in other sectors such as transport, the environment, energy or research and development?

2. In order to contribute fully to the goals of the digital agenda and of EU 2020, should the Commission be asked to produce, in collaboration with the member states, an inventory of the different uses made of the spectrum in Europe? Are their some types of spectrum that should be addressed more carefully in such inventory?

3. With regard to (harmonized) spectrum used for electronic communications services, do the member states wish to agree on early common deadlines for making spectrum available for wireless broadband? How should possible obstacles be addressed?

4. Should the Union play a broader role in order to better defend and promote the EU spectrum policies in international negotiations?

Mobile Roaming

1. What is the best way to stimulate competition in roaming services and achieve a well-functioning single market for the benefit of European consumers?

2. What impact will medium to long-term market developments, e.g. the transition to next generation mobile networks (LTE) and the use of all-IP technologies, have on the roaming market?

3. In the short term, should the roaming regulation be adapted to add a retail price cap for data, similar to what is foreseen for voice and SMS?”