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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

A group of 18 representatives from European mobile operators yesterday went to Brussels to meet with European Commission to ask for less restrictive regulations to be placed upon them, and for a certain amount of leeway until 3G services are launched.

The meeting took place under the banner of the European GSM Association, which organized the meeting between senior mobile executives from the major European operators and senior EU commissioners. The major issue is the fragmentary nature of current regulation of 3G mobile operators, where inconsistent national 3G policies are being created by local regulators. The operators' dream is a much more free-wheeling regime where there is a hands-off approach to regulation consistent across the national regulators in the European Union.

The topics under discussion were mobile infrastructure sharing, license conditions, conditions of network roll-outs, and the launch of future 3G networks and services. The key person that the executives have to impress is EU commissioner Erkki Liikanen, who is responsible for the Enterprise and Information Society initiative, which essentially controls policy for technology and communications.

This is also the part of the EC that is attempting to set the terms and push the adoption of broadband networking across Europe, and keep the technology competitive. Considering the success of GSM as a global mobile standard, and the amount of European business that has been generated as a result of the standard being created by European vendors, the EC needs to try to make 3G work.

Having massively overpaid for 3G mobile licenses in Germany, Italy and the UK, the operators are now desperate to break some of the conditions of their local licenses, or have new ones implemented. In Germany, the regulator, by refusing to allow license transfers is stopping an inevitable consolidation of the six third-generation licensees. The same is also true to a lesser extent true in Italy. The operators need to lobby the EC, which has already agreed to create a looser regulatory framework, with less red tape for the telecoms industry.

The operators are also asking for the Commission to loosen the financial regulations on them, so that they can deliver mobile commerce services, without facing the same level of financial scrutiny as banks. However, it is unlikely that the EC, which left 3G licensing to individual countries in the first place, will actually do what the operators really need, which is to rip up the licenses and give them their money back.

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