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  • Regulation of Access to Limited Resources in Telecommunications Sector in Europe

    Paper number



    Dr. Lesley Jane Smith, University of Lueneburg, Germany



    My Paper deals with
    Access to frequencies on the radio spectrum necessary to operate a communications network is vital to any private telecommunications operator. The radio spectrum and usable frequencies are considered limited natural resources and, as such, their assignment is highly regulated at international (e.g. through the International Telecommunications Union), regional (e.g. through the European Convergence on Posts and Telecommunications) and national level. 
    In light of the liberalisation of the telecommunications market in Europe and its opening up to competition, largely brought about by community legislation, it has become evident that preferential or unfair access to this limited resource may distort competition among private operators, contrary to principles of EC competition rules. 
    The European Union has approached this problem in its telecommunications legislation, by establishing that regulation of the spectrum should fall, at national level, on the independent, national communications regulatory authority. This authority is prohibited from granting exclusive or special rights of use of radio frequencies: it must ensure that these resources are assigned according to objective, non-discriminatory and transparent procedures. (cf. Commission Directive 2002/77/EC of 16 September 2002 on competition in the markets of electronic communications networks and services).
    However, while community-wide harmonisation appears to ensure equality of access to all actors entering the market, recent cases (e.g. C-141/02 pending) have illustrated the inherent weakness of new operators seeking access to spectrum or numbering resources, compared to those pre-existing, established operators, who may already have gained considerable access to these resources under the old regime. 
    This paper shall examine the struggle legislators and regulators are facing in their attempts to ensure fair competition in regulating access to these resources. After an examination of the current state of the law since the 2002 Telecommunications Package, it ventures to outline possible developments in the near future. 
    EU Directives composing the (so-called) Telecoms Package:
    - Framework Directive (Directive 2002/21/EC of European Parliament and Council 7 March 2002) 
    - Authorisation Directive (Directive 2002/20/EC of European Parliament and Council 7 March 2002) 
    - Access Directive (Directive 2002/19/EC of European Parliament and Council 7 March 2002) 
    - Universal Service Directive (Directive 2002/22/EC of European Parliament and Council 7 March 2002) - Directive 97/66/EC of E. Parliament and of Council of 15 December 1997 concerning processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the telecommunications sector.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-05-E6.5.03.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.