LONDON National telecoms regulators are expected to oppose strongly plans announced by the European Commission to create a single EU-wide regulator that is part of an overhaul of the continent's telecoms strategy.
The U.K, Spain and Germany are emerging as the countries likely to be most opposed to the plans, but for different reasons. However, many of the proposals have been welcomed by newly established operators of high data rate and enhanced services.
The EU executive wants to be allowed to override national regulators' decisions and to create an EU telecoms watchdog. It says the controversial measures are needed to boost competition in broadband and wireless services.
"The changes the Commission is presenting today in the telecoms rules is bound to revolutionize the European telecoms sector," EU Commissioner responsible for telecoms and broadcasting Viviane Reding said when outlining her plans.
"This reform will reinforce our industry as world leader in telecoms...it will increase competition, leading to more innovation and investments, and it will help European citizens to get the most out of modern communication systems," she said.
Last month, Ed Richards, the head of Ofcom, the U.K. regulator, warned some of her proposals risk undermining national watchdogs and creating an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in Brussels.
Richards is also concerned the Commission, as part of the proposed revised EU framework on telecoms regulation, could end up with the power to veto certain liberalization measures put forward by national watchdogs.
Richards was not concerned so much with the proposals to split incumbent former monoplies' network and service operations, which has already happened to a great extent in the U.K.
And the German Economy Minister said in a statement following outline of the EC plans: "Reticence is warranted."
Former monopolies also slammed the proposal saying it would discourage operators from investing in new networks.
"The proposals of the commission will hinder investments of billions... Investment in fixed lines would make no more sense," Deutsche Telekom said.
Reding and new entrants on the telecoms markets rejected the argument: "It's very good news for competition and for investments in high speed broadband," said Ilsa Godlovitch of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association ECTA, which represents operators such as Neuf Cegetel of France and Virgin Media, which compete with former monopolies.
In a note on the proposals, John Davies, telecoms analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort, suggested: "There is scope for the final version to be quite a lot different. There will be changes, and probably a bit more power ending up in Brussels."
The EC's plans also call for the number of telecoms markets kept under close scrutiny being reduced from 18 to seven.
The final say on the proposals will rest with member states and may also be changed following deliberations by European MPs.