April 23. 2024. 7:51

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Connectivity package: Commission opens consultation, commits to post-quantum cryptography recommendation

The European Commission announced on Wednesday (21 February) a consultation on EU’s telecom market, open until June and committed to a post-quantum cryptography recommendation.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and Single Market Commissioner Thierry Breton presented the EU executive’s view on the EU’s telecom market, supported by the publication of two non-binding documents: a white paper on the EU’s telecom infrastructure needs and a recommendation to member states on submarine cable infrastructure security and resilience.

“The reason [why telecom operators] don’t [consolidate cross-border] is not because of obstacles from competition… it is more likely that it is the burden of having to deal with different regulations”, stated Vestager at the Commission’s press conference.

Consultation on EU’s telecom market competition

To tackle this issue, the Commission published its white paper “How to master Europe’s digital infrastructure needs?” with 12 scenarios. A public consultation has been launched for third parties to share their views. The consultation will remain accessible until 30 June 2024.

The Commission suggests working on three pillars to achieve a true EU single telecom market. These are adapting the regulatory framework, investing in network infrastructures and enhancing their security and resilience.

Adapting the regulatory framework

With regards to the first pillar, the EU executive is convinced there should be an updated and harmonised telecom regulation at EU level to help telcos reach critical mass, along with a more integrated spectrum governance, including a Europeanised granting system of spectrum licences.

Vestager stated that she was in favour of “telcos to gain scale and at the same time [keep] competition,” explaining she supports operators’ cross-border consolidation.

She added there is a need to demystify that there were not a hundred telecom operators in Europe, but 16 member states with three mobile operators, nine countries with four, and the last two with five mobile operators.

To reduce red tape, Breton mentioned that the “country-of-origin principle” could be implemented within the telecommunication market.

According to this principle, telecom operators’ compliance with the legislative needs of the member states they are established in would give them access to the whole EU market.

Network infrastructure investment

Regarding the investment pillar, the Commission considers that the chips, telecom, cloud industries actors will, in the future, be one continuum of actors.

Breton hence suggested supporting companies through a number of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) within the “Connected Collaborative Computing network,” coined as the ‘3C network’.

Enhancing submarine cable resilience and security

As a consequence of October’s sabotage of a telecom submarine cable in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Estonia, EU countries pushed the Commission to publish a submarine cable security recommendation.

The Commission announced an extra “post-quantum cryptography recommendation” that will be tabled at a later stage by 2025.

Looking at the submarine recommendation, the Commission suggests creating an expert group that will coordinate initiatives and review member states risk assessments and implementation of EU legislation, such as the cybersecurity NIS 2 directive and CER directive on maintenance of vital societal and economic activities.

Additionally, the Commission is preparing mitigating measures that could end up with a voluntary phase-out of Chinese “high-risk” supplier Huawei, as it has already been authorised for 5G masts.

The Commission will support relevant projects through IPCEIs and is looking at newly available funding, with an EU spokesperson defined as new “equity instruments”.

“In Europe, we still have 27 national telco markets with different network architectures, different levels of network coverage, different national spectrum management, and different regulations. This fragmentation is a missed economic opportunity,” wrapped up Vestager.

Read more with Euractiv

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