EU phone connectivity: cheaper, simpler, more accessible

EU phone connectivity
© iStock/fatido

Next week MEPs will vote on proposed new legislation to improve phone network infrastructure, reduce the cost of calls between Member States and boost investment in EU phone connectivity.

Under the terms of the telecom package, which will be voted on by the European Parliament on Wednesday November 14, EU phone connectivity will be improved by capping calls made within the EU at 19 cents per phone call; while text messages will see a cap of six cents per message.

The provisional agreement will prompt investment in wireless capability, with the eventual aim of making 5G connectivity available to all EU citizens by 2020. It will encourage the use of existing civil infrastructure in the development of new connection systems, promoting EU phone connectivity through high capacity networks.

Telecom providers will be compelled to encrypt customers’ data, in order to prevent security failures and minimise the impact in the event of a breach; in addition to making information about billing protocols and consumers’ rights more accessible. Meanwhile the process for customers of changing their service provider midway through a contract will be streamlined, with users retaining the right to carry their old phone number over to another EU phone connectivity provider and receive compensation in the event of quality failures and security incidents.

The bill introduces a “reverse 112” system, which will send texts to alert mobile phone users to major emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks – 112 is the emergency number used internationally by most mobile phone networks. EU phone connectivity providers and Member States will have 18 months to implement the system after the legislation is implemented.

Rapporteur Pilar del Castillo Vera said: “While safeguarding competition, Parliament’s position on the [EU phone connectivity] code aims to a more predictable investment environment. Together with the guarantee of a faster time to market of spectrum resources, this provision will simplify regulatory intervention and ensure greater consistency and predictability in spectrum assignment – crucial for Europe to respond to the challenges raised by the development of 5G communications.”

A separate directive provisionally agreed by negotiators from the European Parliament and European Council on Thursday aims to improve accessibility for disabled citizens using technological services such as computers, ticketing machines and electronic banking. The European Accessibility Act, covering EU phone connectivity, the digital economy and the “built environment” of businesses, will lay out accessibility requirements for electronic services but will not specify precisely what action to take in order to ensure that accessibility, in order to encourage innovation in the field.


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