EC: Telecoms Can Help Europe Defy Downturn

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The telecoms sector is continuing to grow but Europe must not “rest on its laurels”

Inconsistent national regulation could harm recent improvements in lower pricing of mobile and internet services for consumers and businesses according to a report from the European Commission.

In a report released this week on the state of Europe’s single telecoms market, the European commission claims that the telecoms industry is outperforming the rest of the economy while consumers and businesses are getting better value for money.

The telecoms sector continued to grow in 2008 with revenues of more than €300bn (£279bn), an increase of around 1.3 percent compared with 2007, and above growth in the rest of the economy which was only 1.0 percent, despite the effects of the recession.

Average mobile bills have also fallen from €21.48 (£20.02) to €19.49 in 2008 thanks to action by the EU, the report stated. And overall, the commission pointed out that mobile bills have dropped by over a third in the last five years. “Consumers spend more time talking and texting for prices at least 34.5 percent less than in 2004,” the report stated.

EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding said the continued growth in mobile usage and the telecoms industry in general was a good sign for the wider economy.

“Despite the global economic crisis, European consumers communicate more than ever with their phones and via the Internet. This is good news for a sector that can help Europe defy the downturn,” said Reding.

But Reding added that Europe should not “rest on its laurels” and there should continue to be an emphasis on cooperation between member states on issues such as fixed and mobile convergence and regulation of high-speed data networks.

“We must prevent a bypassing of EU rules that could harm our single market. I am in particular concerned that many national regulators are going their own way on high-speed internet networks,” said Reding. “The road to fair competition and investment in these networks does not lie through 27 different solutions mainly favouring national champions, but through open markets, legal certainty and equal chances for all investors and operators.”

The European commission also criticised some countries for lagging behind when it comes enforcing rules that allow consumers to change mobile providers quickly and easily. “While it takes only 1 day for consumers in Ireland or Malta to change their mobile operator while keeping their phone number, it still takes 38 days in Poland, 15 in Italy and 14 in Slovakia,” the report stated.