1. What does EU4Digital do in the area of telecommunications?
In telecommunications, EU4Digital provides assistance to address tasks related to international roaming and a potential arrangement on creating a common international roaming space among the six Eastern partner countries, strengthening the independence of national regulatory authorities, and freeing the 700 MHz frequency band for future mobile usage, including 5G.
2. A roaming agreement – that sounds great! Does this mean we will enjoy ‘roam like at home’ when we travel, as they do in the European Union?
No, a regional roaming agreement would ensure a substantial lowering of applicable roaming prices among the six Eastern partner countries. This would allow mobile communications networks’ roaming customers to enjoy more affordable services while roaming in the Eastern partner countries. Based on the latest findings of the EU4Digital roaming study (2019), an average price decrease of over 80% is expected.
3. Is this roaming agreement just among the six Eastern partner countries? Is there any chance it might be extended to the EU as well?
Yes, the regional roaming agreement will be among the six Eastern partner countries. However, the EU and Eastern partner Ministers have agreed to explore the possibility of a common international roaming space, including the economically sustainable reduction of roaming tariffs between the Eastern partner countries and the EU Member States.
4. When can we expect our roaming bills to come down?
The regional roaming agreement is expected to be signed by the end of 2020 and would take legal effect from 1 July 2021, allowing for a transition period of at least six months. This transition period is needed for the Eastern partner countries to implement the requirements of the roaming agreement, as well as for mobile operators to have sufficient time for adjustments.
5. Frequency redistribution, freeing 700MHz? What exactly does that mean? What difference will it make?
Better coverage of mobile networks, including 5G services. Part of EU4Digital’s work in the telecommunications area is related to freeing the 700 MHz frequency band with the aim of developing and implementing a coordinated approach for reassignment of the 700 MHz band in the six Eastern partner countries, in line with intra-EU efforts and plans. The intra-EU effort consists of removing terrestrial TV broadcasting networks from the 700 MHz band and then assigning this band to wireless broadband electronic communications networks and in particular 5G.
Changing the use of the band in Eastern partner countries in line with EU plans would help to avoid harmful interferences to mobile networks in both Eastern partner countries and the EU. It may also bring many benefits in the future related to 5G implementation, including cost savings from deploying fewer base stations, improvement of coverage in rural areas, and lower consumer prices due to cost savings connected with network deployment.
6. What do regulators do? Aren’t they a government authority? Why should they be independent?
National regulatory authorities (NRAs) are bodies under national laws entrusted with performing regulatory functions in the field of electronic communications. These government authorities ensure a balance between promoting efficient competition, investment and consumer interests with development of electronic communications markets, services and networks in mind. Thus, regulators should be legally distinct and functionally separate from any other bodies which may levy undue influence, because independence and impartial decision-making are key elements of a well-functioning overall regulatory setup.
The EU4Digital Facility supports the strengthening of the independence of NRAs in the Eastern partner countries, with the ultimate target of independent national regulatory authorities for electronic communications in place in at least five Eastern partner countries.