Is Europe Moving Towards a Strategic Development of Spectrum Policy? A Review of the Connected Continent Legislative Proposal
Posted: 1 Apr 2014
Date Written: March 31, 2014
The new smartphone era is challenging the leading position Europe have been occupying in the mobile economy, falling behind other economies such as the United States and some countries in the Asia- Pacific region. Europe has been successful in deploying second and third generation mobile services, but it seems unable to move on towards next generation LTE networks, which are needed in order to support the extensive growth of mobile data traffic. A main factor, among others, which has contributed to the relatively insufficient EU performance in terms of LTE deployment, is market structure. The fragmented structure of EU electronic communications market prevents from exploiting the basic characteristics of dynamic markets such as economies of scale and scope and network effects, hampering investment and innovation in services and infrastructures.
EU leaders recognise that significant changes are taking place in the ICT sector and that changes need to occur in the internal market in order to restore EU competitiveness. On 11 September 2013, the European Commission put forward a new proposed legislative package for a “Connected Continent: Building a Telecoms Single Market”, which is aimed at reforming the existing regulatory framework for the telecommunications market, by introducing reforms directed to create a EU telecoms single market. The Connected Continent reform package has a very wide scope, as it seeks to reform the entire EU telecoms sector and it would require deep and long-lasting efforts from industry players, consumers, national authorities and other stakeholders involved in this significant change of policy orientation. By assessing some position papers, it already emerges that, along with positive improvements, counterproductive measures of the new legislative proposal have been detected, which may create unnecessary complexity and legal uncertainty, challenging the effectiveness of the new legislative package for the European economic growth. Several obstacles may challenge the successful accomplishment of the proposed reforms, including the legacy of years of previous regulation and the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. In this respect, this paper, through a document analysis procedure conducted by following public consultations and position papers, seeks to identify the main weaknesses of the Connected Continent legislative proposal that may be taken into consideration for a revision of the legislative proposal by the EC.
Among other things, the EC aims to partly modify the existing regulatory system of radio spectrum, introducing new common rules on national procedures, pertaining, for instance, radio spectrum authorisation procedures, promoting the harmonisation of radio spectrum management across EU member states and restricting national prerogatives on radio spectrum decisions.
Against this background, this paper aims at investigating whether Europe is moving towards a deeper understanding of the pivotal role that radio spectrum policy plays for its competitiveness in the global arena, the mobile industry being a central element of the world economy. In order to do so, the Connected Continent legislative proposal is analysed by applying the conceptual framework based on the notions of sector agenda and strategic agenda. The sector agenda groups those policy measures strictly related to radio spectrum management issues, while the strategic agenda represents a more comprehensive and long-term strategy of radio spectrum use, as ICTs constitute the backbone of today’s society. Ultimately, this paper intends to ascertain whether the Connected Continent legislative proposal can be considered a first step towards a more comprehensive strategy on radio spectrum, which encompasses both the sector and the strategic agenda.
Keywords: Connected Continent legislative proposal, EU single market, radio spectrum, sector agenda, strategic agenda
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