Kroes set to battle operators over EU single market proposals

EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes is set to give a speech at a conference later this week in a bid to outline why her single market proposals for Europe should be accepted by the continent’s former monopoly operators.

Her proposals – which could lead to aggressive reform in the sector, including the cutting of roaming fees and the creation of a single EU-wide regulator – have come under fire from many operators in Europe.

Kroes, speaking to the Financial Times, said mobile operators must find new business models to survive, claiming that roaming charges in the industry were outrageous.

“Telecom companies need to start thinking in an innovative way, outside the box,” said Kroes. “The days of roaming are over, they need to accept that we live in a new digital era.”

Kroes claims the wider investment community and large banks in London have backed her single telecoms market legislation, which is intended to improve investment and economic growth in Europe.

The commissioner wants Europe to operate as a single market, in effect knocking down barriers across the EU’s 28 countries.

There have been questions over Kroes’ proposals, particularly the idea to slash roaming fees, as cross-border calls remain a major revenue generator for operators.

According to a study by ETNO, Europe’s telecoms regulator, the move could cut mobile operator income by €7 billion between its implementation and 2020.

Operators have also criticised the EC’s lack of involvement in changing regulation to ease M&A activity in the fragmented market.

Kroes will speak at this year’s FT-ETNO conference later this week. According to a draft copy of her speech, she is quoted as stating: “My proposals are about making the pie bigger. So let’s not fight over crumbs.”

Watch out for our feature on the EU single market in the upcoming October/November issue of Capacity magazine.

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