EU mobile boss wants to slash Ofcom powers

THE EU’s top telecoms official has outlined plans for a unified European mobile market, a move that would boost cross-border giants such as Vodafone and reduce the power of UK communications regulator Ofcom.

Speaking at the industry’s annual forum, Mobile World Congress, EU data commissioner Neelie Kroes said Europe was “falling behind” the US as well as countries in the East, and that fragmented laws were discouraging investment and competition.

Earlier in the week, network bosses including Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao railed against the burden of over-regulation in the market, which they say has restricted them while allowing Apple and Google to become dominant.

Telecoms firms have suffered from both the economic conditions in Europe and the increasing popularity of social networking, which have cut into revenues from charging for phone calls and texts.

Yesterday, Kroes appeared to be open to a lighter touch from a new European regulator, potentially allowing fewer networks in each country than the four favoured by most European nations, including the UK: “Europe used to lead the world in wireless, we once dominated devices. Yet now we are falling behind.”

She also said Brussels would look to take control of future mobile spectrum sales, such as the UK’s recent £2.3bn 4G auction: “Some member states [are] seeing auctions as merely revenue-raising, rather than seeing the wider public interest for consumer prices and network investment.”