Michael Jungwirth, Director of Regulatory & European Affairs at Telekom Austria, discusses the single telecoms market and other regulatory challenges.
Eurocomms.com: What is your biggest regulatory challenge currently?
Michael Jungwirth: The biggest challenge in Europe is the persistent necessity of investing in infrastructure while at the same time the substantial revenue cuts that have to be faced due to regulations concerning roaming, interconnection and consumer protection.
In this context, the biggest challenge is the shrinking margins in retail and the growing need for investments in NGA as well as spectrum licenses.
In addition, new technologies, such as vectoring, are entering the market and national regulation authorities are having to quickly define the regulatory framework. Vectoring represents a unique chance for the European telecoms industry to foster growth and reach the goal of the digital agenda. I believe the regulation authorities should take this into account.
The Telekom Austria Group occupies different market positions: in some countries we are the undisputed market leader, in others we are number two and in one market we are number three. This framework results in highly differing competitive and regulatory situations.
But no matter which provider you are talking to, the need to invest in new infrastructure and technologies in order to satisfy customer needs is the main concern.
What are your views on a telecoms single market for Europe – is this something you welcome and what difference will it make to Telekom Austria?
We’ve always been one of the voices calling for the creation of a single European market, so this represents a vital goal for Telekom Austria Group.
But the current plans are still some way from being workable. The European Commission keeps telling us that growth and jobs should be fostered – in contrast, the proposal for the European single market will not contribute to this at all. The European Commission should offer more time to adopt the single market rules especially regarding interconnection, roaming and international calls.
Also, a “real” single market must have common rules for all telecom related issues – we don´t see that this is the case as things stand. For example, there are different rules concerning licence fees across all member states and massive pricing differences in spectrum auctions creating huge competition inequalities.
If we really want to strive for a single European market in telecommunications, then all member states should agree on common rules covering all relevant areas and not merely “populistic” areas like consumer protection.
So, you don’t have confidence in the European regulatory system as it stands currently?
Quite simply, no. We still have to improve the legal framework, especially because of the shortcomings of competition law. The existing legal rules hinder necessary market consolidation. Does it really make sense to have a market analysis with focus on the single national markets? Wouldn’t it be more suitable to have one European market with a unified competition law and a unified regulatory framework?
Furthermore, cohesive steps towards a single EU telecom regulator would make sense. This EU regulatory authority is a logical proposal given the EU’s aim to establish a common market within the region. But doing so would require EU authorities to solve difficult hurdles such as spectrum auctions and national regulatory differences.
Regarding spectrum allocation and harmonisation, specifically, how would you like to see the process improved?
Hopefully it will be addressed quite clearly and in detail. We believe that national political interests should not hinder a more harmonised European approach.
There’s a big shake-up of the roaming market occurring – what do you see happening next Summer once consumers can choose different providers (including non-telcos) for their roaming needs?
Competition might become tougher but this is no threat for Telekom Austria Group – just look at the very low price level we have already been dealing with!
Telcos have been accused of blocking VoIP services in the past while Skype was recently threatened with criminal charges in France – what is Telekom Austria’s view on the evolving VoIP market?
The regulatory framework should establish a level playing field so that all players have to follow the same rules and obligations, including VoIP service providers. We support an open and neutral internet and continue to enable internet users to use all functionalities and applications, like accessing and sharing information.
We currently do not apply any measures in order to prioritise certain data traffic – furthermore we do not block applications like Skype.