The European Regulators Group (ERG) today held, for the first time, an 'industry debriefing session'. ERG secretary Prof. Heinrich Otruba commented on each of the agenda points which were discussed at the plenary meeting of the ERG in Luxembourg on 16 and 17 June 2004.

The ERG discussed, amongst others, bitstream access on cable television networks, GSM gateways, otherwise known as SIM gateways and – in France – hérissons, and the regulatory aspects of Voice over IP (VoIP).

Bitstream access on Cable TV networks

An ERG Working Group headed by Ms. Groebel of the German regulatory authority RegTP presented a technical paper on this matter. The ERG decided to extend the mandate of the Working Group in order to be able to produce an addendum to the ERG Common Position on bitstream access, specifically to also cover bitstream access on cable networks.

The ERG is of the opinion that the obligation to provide bitstream access should not be limited for twisted pair networks and that cable television networks (where they are found to have a Significant Market Power) should be included, if it were decided that this would significantly increase competition. There will be an ERG session in September 2004 to discuss the proposed addendum, followed by an industry consultation.

GSM gateways

The Belgian regulatory authority BIPT presented a discussion note on SIM gateways. The ERG discussed the reasons why SIM Gateways are popping up everywhere in Europe and the ERG has come to the conclusion that the pricing structure of mobile operators (mobile termination charges exceeding retail mobile call prices in many cases) is conducive to this evolution.

The ERG does not see major regulatory problems regarding the use of SIM gateways, but recognises that there are some issues in contract law (this was not elaborated upon). The ERG proposes that no regulatory action should be taken against SIM gateways (although Prof. Otruba stated there may be some exceptions – again this was not elaborated upon).

T-REGS note: Mobile operators in several EU Member States have modified their general contractual terms and conditions in order to seek to prohibit SIM gateways. It would appear from the industry debriefing that the ERG members are not minded to take specific action in this regard.

Voice over IP

A discussion note was presented by FICORA, the Finnish regulatory authority. A number of technical and regulatory problems were listed (the FICORA presentation will be published on the ERG website within the next few days).

The ERG’s conclusion is that technological neutrality should be maintained and that every decision regarding VoIP services should be taken with the increase of the welfare of EU citizens in mind. The ERG regulatory Working Group will produce a report for the plenary session in December 2004.

For a discussion of these topics, please contact Alexa Veller.