EU mulls easing merger rules for telecoms, Big Tech to help pay network costs

By Thomson Reuters Feb 14, 2024 | 7:16 AM

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -EU regulators may ease their rules against mobile telecoms mergers and broaden telecoms rules to get Big Tech and others to help fund the rollout of 5G, according to a European Commission document seen by Reuters.

Deutsche Telekom , Orange, Telefonica and Telecom Italia have long lobbied EU antitrust regulators to loosen rules that frown on mergers that reduce the number of mobile operators from four to three unless substantial remedies are offered.

The paper, which Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager will present on Feb. 21 asking for feedback from all stakeholders, points to some 50 mobile operators and more than 100 fixed operators in the European Union.

Such a fragmented market “along national borders could impact the ability of operators to reach the scale needed to invest in the networks of the future, in particular in view of cross-border services,” the paper said.

“The question arises as to whether cross-border consolidation or different forms of cooperation upstream could allow operators to acquire sufficient scale, without compromising downstream competition,” it said.

The document also said the scope of current telecoms rules could be broadened because of the convergence between electronic communications networks and cloud services.

“The Commission may consider the broadening of the scope and objectives of the current regulatory framework to ensure a level playing field and equivalent rights and obligations for all actors and end-users of digital networks,” it said.

Telecoms providers say Alphabet Inc’s Google, Meta, Amazon.com, Netflix Inc, Apple and Microsoft Corp account for more than half of data internet traffic and should help pay for the network upgrade.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee;Editing by Paul Simao)