BEREC plans for 2018: prioritise 5G and superfast networks

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (Berec) has identified enabling 5G connectivity as a key priority for 2018, according to its incoming chairperson.

Johannes Gungl is the managing director of the Department of Telecommunications and Post at RTR, the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecoms, and will take over from French regulator Sebastien Soriano as Berec chair in 2018.

Speaking at the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) regulatory conference in Brussels, Gungl said Berec is taking a “holistic approach” to the deployment of 5G, but it was one of the key issues on his agenda for 2018.

One consideration he discussed was the availability of backhaul required to support the fifth generation of mobile connectivity – a key issue in Europe.

In his speech, he said: “On 5G there is already a lot of activity going on, despite the fact that 5G will not be operational in Europe until 2020. However the challenges to be addressed are getting clearer. These challenges are ranging from the work on standards, interoperability, new business models, network sharing to coverage and security. 

“Berec will make 5G a strategic priority with the aim to enable European-scale solutions. It is our goal to help reap the benefits of an early roll-out of 5G in Europe. Berec will actively and closely follow the development and will work to identify and eliminate potential hurdles to a smooth deployment of 5G.”

New connectivity

He outlined several work items that Berec has planned for 2018, which began with a study on the changes to the value chain in the context of the new connectivity. 

It will also look into the award procedures, infrastructure sharing and the compatibility of current net neutrality rules within the concept of network slicing.

“There is one thing that I want to emphasize in this forum and that is that Berec is well aware of the role of competition in relation to 5G and especially the backhaul infrastructure availability,” he added. “Let me remind you that just recently Berec has launched a report on fixed and mobile network convergence addressing exactly this issue.”

With net neutrality a hot topic of discussion following the US regulator’s decision to revoke Obama-era free internet rules, Berec is also looking at its approach to the principles.

Gungl said the body of regulators will work closesly with its members – the national European regulators – in their efforts to apply the EU’s net neutrality (NN) regulations in a consistent way across the continent.

“In 2018 Berec will provide input to an evaluation of the NN rules that has to be done until end of April 2019 and we will continue to monitor the implementation of the NN rules across Europe,” Gungl added.

High capacity networks

The final concern he outlined during his presentation was around connectivity challenges. In this he recognised the importance of high capacity networks, but said the migration from legacy networks, the roll-out of fibre service, and market consolidation can lead to new competition problems.

“Very high-capacity networks have become central for consumers and businesses. But the variety in the deployment of high-capacity networks has led to different market conditions across Europe,” he said.

“Berec has detected a strategic priority to work on identifying competition problems in the development of high-capacity networks. Here I want to respond to another comment made by ECTA during the public consultation. We can confirm that there will be no one-sided focus on questions of high-capacity network deployment. There is still work to be done on existing infrastructures, but our work must be forward-looking and future-proof.”

His speech came at a time when the future of Berec was under scrutiny, with the European Commission proposing that Berec be given a new mandate that would have potentially increased its powers by making it a full-fledged EU agency.

Ministers rejected this plan, saying Berec should not be able to adopt binding decisions, as proposed by the commission. MEPs have also opposed the proposal. 

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