On March 2, 2016 the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) presented the results from its 26th plenary meeting, which took place on February 25 and 26, 2016 and addressed roaming regulation, “over the top” (OTT) services, and the Internet of Things (IoT). It also hosted a workshop on net neutrality on February 24, 2016.
Number portability, switching, privacy, and roaming will require special attention in the future
The net neutrality workshop hosted by BEREC explored traffic management practices, zero-rating, the role of specialized services, and Internet access quality parameters. BEREC will publish draft net neutrality guidelines after its next meeting, in June 2016, and expects to approve them in August. During its most recent conference it also adopted several reports, including one on OTT services and another on enabling IoT. Both were subject to consultation in 2015 and respond to the EC’s ongoing telecoms regulatory framework review.
The report into IoT explored whether existing rules for voice telephony would be sufficient regulation and easily transposed to machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. After looking at spectrum resources and the legal framework required for IoT/M2M, including numbering and IP addresses, it concluded that there is no need for a specific European numbering scheme and only number portability, switching, privacy, and roaming will require special attention in the future. The OTT report, on the other hand, identified the need to clarify the definition of “electronic communication services” to ensure that it better reflects the evolving sector before any regulatory changes are made.
Roaming in particular is an issue that has been crying out for more regulatory clarification. BEREC has already begun looking into roaming regulation and published its wholesale roaming report in response to the EC’s consultation in November 2015. The response, which was also adopted during the plenary meeting, highlighted the need to address differences in travel patterns, variations in wholesale charging models, and the weaker position of MVNOs in securing wholesale roaming prices below domestic retail prices. BEREC has concluded that retail- and wholesale-level conditions need to be adapted to achieve a balanced outcome for networks both at home and abroad.
In addition, BEREC’s guidelines on the application of new international roaming rules adopted by the EC in October 2015 were agreed. They advise on implementing a transitional regime ahead of the removal of roaming charges for calls, SMS, and data use by mobile operators after June 15, 2017. The transitional regime will apply to operators from April 30, 2016 until June 14, 2017 and will introduce a price cap based on the domestic price plus a surcharge that cannot exceed maximum wholesale roaming charges. Other updates to its guidelines include the definition of domestic roaming retail prices, charging intervals, tariffs without roaming services, and the applicability of roaming regulation to M2M.
With the growing focus on M2M and OTT services, the BEREC guidelines and EC consultations are timely and will be key to ensuring that the appropriate regulatory environment is in place to effectively support and encourage development. Legislation needs to remain flexible, however, and regulators should avoid over-regulation, which risks stifling innovation. Attention should also turn to net neutrality principles and avoiding the possibility of a two-tiered Internet or zero-rated services.
Regulatory Scorecard 2016: EU5, TE0007-000971 (January 2016)
“Consistent inconsistency informs the new EU net neutrality regulation, TE0007-000950 (October 2015)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation