A European Commission plan to further deregulate its telecommunications market has come under fire, after it was claimed the plans would help the continent’s biggest players increase their grip on the market.
In a brief seen by German daily Handelsblatt, which are part of the Commission’s digital single market plan, large companies will be freed from new regulation, and broker contracts longer than the current two-year maximum.
That has concerned consumer groups, which have warned that the move could hurt competition, and detract from its principle goal: increasing high speed Internet access across Europe. Insiders have played down the worries. But many are still unconvinced.
The move comes after years of intense lobbying by telco providers in Brussels, which have argued that the Commission’s regulatory system is stymying innovation; particularly plans to roll out widespread 5G. Even in Europe’s richest countries, network speed lags far behind other regions, especially east Asia.
The firms, which include several former national monopolies like Deutsche Telekom, BT Group and Swisscom, have also played up the encroachment of US tech firms in the European telco market, such as Google Hangouts or WhatsApp.
Further regulation would, they argue, open the door for Silicon Valley domination. Brussels is keen to avoid that with the digital single market.
It seems that the telcos have got what they wanted just in time, too: today Marketwatch reported that the 5G technology market will be worth 89 million subscribers by 2022, as it catches up with the hitherto-dominant LTE and GSM/Edge markets.
The latter still represents the lion’s share of subscriptions today, the report added. But by next year it will be overtaken by LTE. And by 2021 the number of LTE subscribers worldwide will be more than double that of its current competitor.