The regulatory framework for Electronic Communications was adopted in 2002. An ambitious overhaul of the framework was incorporated in an update in 2018. It focuses on, inter alia, incentivising investment in high-speed broadband networks and providing a more effective regulatory institutional framework in the form of the Commission’s European Gigabit Society proposals.
The new framework took effect on 21 December 2020. It is supplemented by a number of additional legislative instruments:
- The European Electronic Communications Code
- The Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, which is based on the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58/EC, and the Citizens' Rights Directive 2009/136/EC
- The Regulation on the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications
- The Regulation on Roaming on public mobile communications networks
One of the main features of the regulatory framework is ex ante access regulation; this procedure is used to identify competitive bottlenecks in telecoms markets (typically in fixed markets) and to impose remedies to address such bottlenecks, following competition law principles and methodologies. Access regulation is implemented by National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in close cooperation with the Commission. The combination of ex ante access regulation and competition law enforcement has been instrumental in ensuring that EU telecoms markets operate more competitively.
The European Electronic Communications Code (“the Code”) was adopted in 2018 in order to accommodate a rapidly evolving sector and the greater need for connectivity across the EU. The Code’s objectives are to stimulate competition and increase investment in very high capacity networks. The Code seeks to encourage competition through infrastructure in particular by updating the rules on operators’ access to networks and to enable EU citizens and businesses to benefit from a variety of new services such as 5G.
Guidelines on Significant Market Power
The Commission Guidelines on Significant Market Power (“SMP Guidelines”) were adopted in 2002 in order to provide guidance to National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) for the analysis of markets and effective competition under the regulatory framework.
In 2018, revised SMP Guidelines were published, alongside the Code, in light of the increased convergence of the Electronic Communications sector and increased demand for bundled products by retail broadband customers.
The Recommendation on Relevant Markets
The Recommendation on Relevant Markets is a key policy and harmonisation tool for the telecoms field and provides guidance to NRAs. It lists those markets, which, at a European level, are presumed not to be fully competitive and therefore are susceptible to ex ante regulatory intervention under the Code.
The Broadband Guidelines
The Communication on State aid for broadband networks (‘Broadband Guidelines') was adopted on 12 December 2022. The Broadband Guidelines set out the rules that the Commission applies when it assesses the allocation of State aid for the deployment and take-up of broadband networks to reduce the digital divide, while minimising its impact on competition. The Guidelines constitute a framework to support the digital transition and reflect technological, regulatory and market developments. In addition, they reflect the current EU policy priorities as set out in the Gigabit Society Communication, the Shaping Europe's Digital Future Communication, the Digital Compass Communication and the Digital Decade Policy Programme.