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Bangemann clarifies EU policy on 3G mobile communications

European Commissioner Martin Bangemann, responsible for telecommunication policy, has firmly rejected US claims of potential European market access barriers for third-generation (3G) mobile communication. In response to a letter of 19 December 1998 from the US Secretary of Sta...
European Commissioner Martin Bangemann, responsible for telecommunication policy, has firmly rejected US claims of potential European market access barriers for third-generation (3G) mobile communication. In response to a letter of 19 December 1998 from the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Commissioner Bangemann stated: "It is the European Union policy to have market demand met by a broad competitive offering of mobile multi-media serviced, fully in line with the EU regulatory framework and its WTO obligations."

Third-generation mobile communication will offer, in addition to mobile telephony and messaging services, a new dimension of wireless communications, including access to Internet and to multi-media services.

On 14 December 1998, the Council of Telecommunication and the European Parliament adopted a Decision to ensure the availability of at least one interoperable service in the EU and pan-European roaming for the benefit of consumers. The Decision requires Member States to prepare their national licensing regime by 1 January 2000 to allow the co-ordinated introduction of Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems (UMTS) services on their territory by 1 January 2000 at the latest. This will ensure that, from that date, a consumer in one of the Member States will be able to use his UMTS terminal when travelling in any other Member State of the EU.

In a letter of 19 December 1998 to Commissioner Bangemann, US Secretary of State Albright, Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Commerce Secretary William Daley and Federal Communication Commission Chairman William Kennard expressed concern over the EU position and policy for 3G mobile services.

Mr Bangemann underlined in his answer that the EU fully supports global harmonisation of 3G technology standards but that the decision on this needs to be taken by industry. However, the Commission does not and will not interfere in such an industry-led process of technical and commercial consideration.

Commissioner Bangemann expressed "surprise that the US Government seems to be asking for regulatory intervention in an industry-led process", where the real issue seems to be industrial disputes on Intellectual Property Rights. He further commented that "we would not deem it appropriate to impose backward compatibility between second- and third-generation systems, like the US seems to want, nor to impose convergence of 3G standards towards a single standard, let alone towards a particular 3G standard, be it at EU or global level."
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