Displaying items by tag: European Commission
EU to re-launch deadlocked effort to regulate messaging apps
The European Union (EU) plans to push for greater regulation of internet phone messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp.
European operators blast decision by EU on cross border calls
European mobile operators have blasted the decision by the EU to place a price cap on intra-EU phone calls. The decision has been hailed by MEPs as a victory for Brussels, but critics of the decision have labelled it a populist stunt and a political smokescreen.
European operators said the decision was being used to deflect attention away from the failure by politicians in Brussels to agree on far more critical measures that are required to be implemented in order to facilitate the much-needed investment for 5G and other high-tech innovations.
Telecoms lobbying group ETNO said the European Commission had missed a ‘once in a decade’ opportunity. In a statement released to the press, ETNO said, “The main aim of the original proposal by the European Commission was to significantly improve the investment climate for rolling out new networks and to empower users of all communication service. This ‘once in a decade’ opportunity has been missed.”
This latest decision by the EC comes just twelve months after the ‘free roaming’ revolution which allowed Europeans to be charged the same amount to call, text, or use the internet when travelling in other EU nations as they would be at home.
In the latest measure, it has been disclosed that mobile or fixed-line phone calls from an EU home country to another bloc member will now be capped at 19 euro cents ($0.22) per minute and six cents per text message.
MEP, Pilar Del Castillo, who negotiated on behalf of the European Parliament, expressed his delight that the decision to put a price cap on calls was rubberstamped - and said companies should not be allowed to charge excessive fees to users when making calls to other EU member states.
He said, “We agree that companies cannot charge excessive fees to users when they call or send an SMS from their home country via mobiles or landlines to another EU Member State. The cap came after 12 hours of talks between the EU Bulgarian Presidency, the European Commission and the European Parliament and will now need signing off by the bloc's 28 member states.
But the limit, which was part of a wide-ranging telecoms package, comes as an increasing share of inter-EU communication takes place via mobile apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage or Skype.
South Korea and EU approve Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP
Qualcomm announced that the European Commission and the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) have authorized the acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. The acquisition has now received 8 of the 9 approvals around the world, with China remaining.
Telecom Review reported in November 2017 that Qualcomm’s acquisition of NXP was set to receive European Union approval, after the company said it would maintain licensing terms for NXP’s MIFARE technology, used in swipe cards for the London tube system. Qualcomm also said it would commit to ensure NXP chips remain interoperable.
Qualcomm said in a statement that it has cooperated with the European Commission and the KFTC and agreed to all conditions required by the agencies to obtain their authorization. Qualcomm committed to exclude certain near-field communication (NFC) patents from the proposed transaction and ensure that NXP licenses those patents to third parties.
Qualcomm also committed not to assert the NFC patents it will acquire from NXP and maintain interoperability between Qualcomm’s baseband chipsets and NXP’s NFC chips and rivals baseband chipsets and NFC chips. Qualcomm also confirmed it will continue to offer a license to MIFARE on terms commensurate with those offered by NXP.
“We are pleased that both the European Commission and the Korean Fair Trade Commission have granted authorization of the NXP acquisition, and we are optimistic that China will expeditiously grant its clearance,” said Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated.
“Acquiring NXP is complementary to Qualcomm’s global portfolio, providing tremendous scale in automotive, IoT, security and networking and will greatly accelerate our ability to execute and create value in new and adjacent opportunities,” Mollenfopf added.
The European Commission expressed concerns in 2017 about Qualcomm's acquisition of NXP - announced in October 2016 - that the tie-up could lead to increased prices and reduced innovation in the semiconductor industry. Qualcomm offered in October 2017 concessions to move forward with the deal, but both Qualcomm and NXP warned that it could be delayed due to regulatory scrutiny.
However, winning EU and Korean approval is a big boost for the proposed merger. It is significant for Qualcomm in its bid to fend off acquisition advances from Broadcom, after the company rejected Broadcom's $130 billion offer.
According to Bloomberg analyst Anand Srinivasan, getting approval from the EU will be a relief for Qualcomm, as adding an automotive chip business in the form of NXP gives "it a much bigger and more diverse empire to oversee." Srinivasan believes the addition of NXP to Qualcomm's portfolio could see it convincing investors that Qualcomm has the right strategy to avoid Broadcom's advances.
Qualcomm announced on November 13 that its Board of Directors had "unanimously" rejected the unsolicited proposal by Broadcom on November 6. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Qualcomm Incorporated, said the proposal "significantly undervalues Qualcomm" relative to its leadership in mobile technology and future growth prospects.
EU taking Ireland to court over Apple tax dispute
The European Commission is taking Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover from Apple illegal state aid worth up to €13 billion, as required by the Commission’s August 2016 decision. EU Member States have to recover illegal state aid within the deadline set by the Commission, which is usually four months.
The Commission concluded that Ireland’s tax benefits to Apple were illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. As a matter of principle, EU state aid rules require that illegal state aid is recovered in order to remove the distortion of competition created by the aid.
“Ireland has to recover up to €13 billion in illegal state aid from Apple. However, more than one year after the Commission adopted this decision, Ireland has still not recovered the money, also not in part,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy. “We of course understand that recover in certain areas may be more complex than in others, and we are always ready to assist. But Member States must make sufficient progress to restore competition.”
The deadline for Ireland to implement the Commission's decision on Apple's tax treatment was 3 January 2017 in line with standard procedures, i.e. four months from the official notification of the Commission decision. Until the illegal aid is recovered, the company in question continues to benefit from an illegal advantage, according to the Commission, which is why recovery must happen as quickly as possible.
Today, more than one year after the Commission's decision, Ireland has still not recovered any of the illegal aid, the Commission claims. Furthermore, although Ireland has made progress on the calculation of the exact amount of the illegal aid granted to Apple, it is only planning to conclude this work by March 2018 at the earliest.
The Commission has therefore decided to refer Ireland to the Court of Justice for failure to implement the Commission decision, in accordance with Article 108(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). If a Member State does not comply with the judgment, the Commission may ask the Court to impose penalty payments.
European Commission pushes for drone safety rules
The European Commission is pushing to speed up the implementation of EU-wide rules for the use of drones in the European Union. More than 1,200 safety occurrences – including near-misses between drones and aircraft – were reported in Europe in 2016, which underlines the pressing need for a modern and flexible EU regulatory framework.
The European Commission is calling on the European Parliament and the Council to agree on its proposal from December 2015 establishing an EU-wide framework for drones.
In December 2015, the Commission proposed to create an EU-wide framework for drones as part of its Aviation Strategy. It tabled a legislative proposal establishing standards for drones and drone operations, which is still being examined by the European Parliament and the EU Member States.
Pending this adoption, the Commission’s Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR) – whose role is to develop the next generation of European Air Traffic Management – is currently making half a million euro available to support the demonstration of “geo-fencing” services, which can automatically prevent drones from flying into restricted zones.
“Drones offer tremendous opportunities for new services and businesses. That is why we want Europe to be a global leader,” said Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc.
“I am confident our modern and flexible regulatory framework will give rise to new European champions in this sector. But safety always comes first. If we don’t have enough, the near misses between drones and airplanes could one day have disastrous consequences. I am therefore calling on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly agree on our proposal from December 2015.”
Ensuring that drones can safely integrate the airspace alongside other users (such as aircraft) is fundamental. This is why the Commission proposed in November 2016 to create an automated traffic management system for drones operating at low-level, referred to as the “U-space”. Geo-fencing is a key component of the U-space.
The call for proposals announced by SESAR aims to select one project demonstrating the active geo-fencing of drones flying below 500 feet (around 152 meters). It requires that drones users are provided with up-to-date information on no-fly zone as well as real-time alerts if they enter one. The project will build on the geolocation capabilities which are built-in in many drones today.
Today's funding comes on top of an envelope of 9 million euros that has already been earmarked for exploratory projects to speed up the development of the U-space, such as the automatic identification of drones or drone-to-drone communication.
Google files appeal against $2.8bn EU antitrust fine
Alphabet-owned Google is fighting back against the $2.8 billion antitrust fine it was given by the European Commission in June this year. The Californian tech giant has filed an appeal against the fine, which was the largest penalty ever given by the European Union’s regulator.
The European Commission had ruled that Google’s positioning of its own shopping comparison service at the top of Google search results was an abuse of power. If the practice continued, the Commission said, more fines would come Google’s way.
At the time when the fine was imposed, the EC’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said Google was conducting activity that was “illegal under EU antitrust rules.” Google “respectfully disagreed” with the ruling, but was given 90 days to end its “anti competitive” practices or else face another fine amounting to 5 percent of the average daily global earning of Alphabet.
The company “has systematically given prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service,” the Commission claims. Furthermore, “Google has demoted rival comparison shopping services in its search results.”
For instance, rival comparison shopping services appear in Google's search results on the basis of Google's generic search algorithms. Google has included a number of criteria in these algorithms, as a result of which rival comparison shopping services are demoted.
Evidence, according to the Commission, shows that even the most highly ranked rival service appears on average only on page four of Google's search results, and others appear even further down.
Google's own comparison shopping service is not subject to Google's generic search algorithms, including such demotions. As a result, Google's comparison shopping service is much more visible to consumers in Google's search results, whilst rival comparison shopping services are much less visible.
Google's “illegal practices” have had a “significant impact” on competition between Google's own comparison shopping service and rival services, the Commission claims. They allowed Google's comparison shopping service to make significant gains in traffic at the expense of its rivals and to the detriment of European consumers.
Given Google's dominance in general internet search, its search engine is an important source of traffic, the Commission claims. As a result of Google's practices, traffic to Google's comparison shopping service increased significantly, whilst rivals have “suffered very substantial losses of traffic on a lasting basis.”
The Commission is now looking at other areas where it suspects Google may have abused its monopoly power, notably its Android mobile operating system, speculates BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. The Commission’s ruling against Google “was seen as just the first shot in a wider campaign,” he said.
European Commission approves connectivity boost for rural Germany
The European Commission has endorsed under EU state aid rules three German virtual access products that will allow the use of so-called vectoring technology in state funded high speed broadband networks. This will boost connectivity in rural areas, whilst maintaining competition in the Single Market.
In June 2015, the European Commission approved a €3 billion German state aid scheme to promote investment in high speed broadband infrastructure, especially for rural areas where private investment is lacking. In its decision, the Commission allowed the use of the so-called vectoring technology, provided Germany offered virtual access products to replace the physical access lost due to the use of vectoring.
Vectoring technology allows increased broadband speed over the existing copper network beyond the highest levels normally achieved via very high speed digital subscriber lines (VDSL). This is achieved at comparably low costs. However, as a side-effect, competitors are no longer able to gain physical access to individual copper lines leading to the customers, and are therefore prevented from providing their own high speed internet products to them.
The introduction of an adequate virtual unbundled local access (VULA) product can compensate the negative effects of vectoring. A VULA product requires the network operator to transport competitors' data traffic at conditions similar to those the competitors would have had with physical access to the copper lines. This preserves the possibility for competitors to make own diversified high speed internet offers to their customers even when vectoring is used by the network operator.
In September 2016, Germany notified to the Commission three VULA products proposed by Deutsche Telekom, DNS:Net and NetCologne for their respective broadband roll-out projects under the national next generation access (NGA) scheme.
The Commission said it has thoroughly examined the three proposed VULA products, to assess whether they would adequately compensate the negative effects of vectoring and ensure open access to the network, as required by the 2013 Broadband State Aid Guidelines.
After several amendments to the notified products, the Commission found that the proposed VULA products offered by the three companies fulfill the requirements of providing adequate virtual access to the network.
In particular, the VULA products cover the stretch of copper network leading to final customers. This is in line with the Commission's June 2015 decision, considering that in the relevant rural areas vectoring technology removes physical access to the copper network at this point in the network.
On this basis, the Commission concluded that the three proposed VULA products fulfill the requirements set out in its approval decision of June 2015. This in turn allows vectoring technology to start being used in state-funded high speed broadband networks in Germany.
EU increases pressure on US technology firms over user terms
The European Union has increased pressure on US technology leaders Facebook, Twitter and Google in relation to its user terms. The EU has requested that they amend their user terms in order to make them compliant with current EU law - after EU lawmakers deemed the proposals submitted by the technology giants as ‘insufficient’.
In June, the European Commission (EC) and consumer protection authorities in the EU wrote directly to Facebook, Google and Twitter in which they stressed to the technology companies that they need to improve their proposed changes to user terms by the end of September.
The EU has the power to impose fines if Facebook, Twitter and Google fail to comply with the request issued. Twitter has thus far not responded to an e-mailed request for a comment from Reuters, whilst Google declined to comment on the ongoing situation. However, Facebook believes that it is compliant with current EU law, but conceded that its terms could be formatted in a way which was easier to understand and would work to meet the authorities concerns.
The concerns are concentrated mainly on procedures the social media entities propose to set up for the removal of illegal content on their websites, some analysts have claimed that the terms limit their liability and allows them unilaterally to remove content posted by users.
The US technology trio has been given a deadline of July 20th to submit new proposals, which need to be implemented by the end of September. A source close to the case has claimed that two of the companies had submitted amended proposals, while a third had asked for more time, declining to specify which one.
Facebook, Google and Twitter agreed to the proposed changes touted in March amidst concerns raised by European regulators in March of this year. One of the main issues centered on the terms which forced European consumers to seek redress in California, where the companies are all headquartered, instead of the consumer’s home address.
US technology firms have previously faced scrutiny over the way it conducts its business in Europe, ranging from issues such as privacy, to illegal or threatening content. Both the consumer protection authorities and the EC has requested that the trio provide more details on the timeframe and deadlines it will apply in relation to dealing with notifications of content deemed illegal under consumer law.
EU looking into ways Europe should promote digital innovation in health
The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how Europe should promote digital innovation in health and care, for the benefits of citizens and health systems in Europe.
The input will feed into a new policy Communication to be adopted by the end of 2017, as announced in the recent review of the Commission's Digital Single Market strategy.
“We are dedicated to improving European citizens' quality of living by improving Europe's health, care and research systems by using digital technologies to their full potential,” stated Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis, Mariya Gabriel and Carlos Moedas.
“This consultation will help us identify ways to offer citizens, medical professionals and researchers better access to health data, prevention, rapid response to pandemic threats, personalized treatments and care,” the statement added.
“We are considering new digital initiatives to deliver on the free movement of patients and data, to support the modernization of national health systems, and to bring together scattered evidence and innovative knowledge from across Europe. At the heart of our policies, citizens and their wellbeing are our first priority.”
The consultation will collect information on three main pillars, including citizens' secure access to their health data and the possibility to share it across borders, clarifying citizens' rights and enhancing interoperability of electronic health records in Europe.
It will also focus on connecting and sharing data and expertise to advance research, personalize health and care, and better anticipate epidemics. Finally, it will focus on using digital services to promote citizen empowerment and integrated person-centered care.
Citizens, patient organizations, health and care professionals, public authorities, researchers, industries, investors, insurers and users of digital health tools are all invited to share their views via EU Survey until 12 October 2017.
Demographic change, growing prevalence of chronic diseases, re-emergence of infectious diseases and the rising cost of healthcare poses major challenges for healthcare provisions in Europe.
The Communication on effective, accessible and resilient health systems concluded that the Member States' future ability to provide high-quality healthcare to all citizens will depend on making health systems more resilient, while remaining cost-effective and financially sustainable.
Digital innovation can offer cost-effective tools to support the transition from a hospital-based healthcare model to a person-centered and integrated model, improve health promotion, prevention and access to care, and contribute to the sustainability and resilience of healthcare systems, the European Commission claims. It can make effective the right for citizens to access their health data everywhere in Europe.
It can also help improve surveillance and early detection of infectious outbreaks. It can drastically advance the diagnosis and treatment of patients. For instance, in the area of rare diseases, the current average time for diagnosing a known rare disease of 5.6 years could be shortened to one year thanks to molecular diagnosis and tele-consultations with specialists.
Furthermore, the digital transformation of health and care stimulates the empowerment of citizens allowing them to manage their own health and interact more easily with health providers.
The Digital Single Market Mid-term Review tackles these issues. It proposes that the Commission addresses the need and scope for measures on digital health and care, in line with legislation on the protection of personal data, patient rights and electronic identification.
€150 million loan approved to upgrade Greece’s broadband networks
The Investment Plan for Europe, the so-called "Juncker Plan", has backed a €150 million EIB loan agreement with Cosmote, a Greek telecommunications operator, to upgrade its mobile broadband network. This agreement was made possible by the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).
The loan agreement will help to finance Cosmote's plans to enhance and expand its mobile broadband network, significantly increasing the network's performance in terms of speed, capacity and coverage. It will, in particular, improve the networks performances in more rural and remote areas of the country.
“This agreement demonstrates yet again the valuable role the Juncker Plan can play in mobilizing investment to support and expand growth-enabling infrastructure in Greece,” said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.
“The agreement also serves as testament to the Commission's broader strategic objective of seeking to fully exploit the opportunities offered by digital technologies to promote innovation, productivity and growth,” Pierre added. “The Commission remains committed to supporting investment that will act to secure Greece's economic recovery.”
The Juncker Plan is working to boost investment, support jobs and spur growth in Greece and across Europe. As of June 2017, operations approved in Greece under the EFSI represent a financing volume of over €1.1 billion and are expected to mobilize over €3.3 billion in investments.
This project contributes to meeting Europeans' growing connectivity needs, promoting access to high quality networks and boosting Europe's competitiveness, as foreseen in the Digital Single Market strategy. Some 10% of EFSI investments are in the digital sector.