Ease 3G rules, operators beg EU
Competition regime too harsh
Europe's struggling carriers and equipment suppliers are stepping up pressure on the European Union for measures to alleviate their problems ahead of a meeting of Europe's telecoms ministers in Brussels next week.
Laden with debt from the cost of 3G licences and facing massive delays in getting a return on the investment because of technological problems, mobile operators in particular are seeking a relaxation of rules designed to ensure maximum competition.
Chief executives of the major carriers, and leading representatives of equipment suppliers Nokia and Siemens have met commission president Romano Prodi and telecoms commissioner Erkki Liikanen in a bid to get more sympathetic regulations and more funding for information technology.
Despite the financial problems of the industry, and the fact that 3G handsets are only just becoming available, industry regulators across Europe are sticking to timetables for the roll-out of the technology agreed long before the present problems became known.
Sweden's telecommunications authority (PTS) has turned down a request from all three of the companies with 3G licenses for a delay in the original timescale that the technology should be available by the end of this year. Quite apart from the problems with equipment, the carriers say they face demanding requirements from local communities and military authorities.
The carriers also want a removal of obstacles to consolidation in the mobile phone industry and the freedom to exchange assets, sites and spectrum. Such a move is inevitable in the long term, but regulators are wary of any move that would put most of the assets in the handful of a few major players to the detriment of consumers.
The industry also wants Brussels to apply pressure on national governments to offer internet access to more official services to stimulate demand for data services.