EC: Businesses must pick standards, not politicians

Commissioner for information society and media says regulators should no longer be the main force in mandating standards

The EU's telecoms watchdog has called for regulators to take a back seat in setting standards — and allow consumers to take the lead by picking the platform that offers the services they want.

Speaking today at the ITU Telecoms World conference in Hong Kong, Viviane Reding, commissioner for information society and media, said regulators should no longer be the main force in charge of mandating standards.

Reding said: "We know the choice of the wrong standard could lock our economies into a long period of under-performance."

She added: "I think it should be left to businesses to find the business models that attract consumers to opt for the services they like best.

"The GSM standard was a landmark decision... today, the picture is more complex. For governments to make a viable case for choosing any standard is much more difficult."

According to the commissioner, regulators still have their part to play in standards adoption, though, including implementing a legal system that prevents "patents ambushes".

Reding also called for change in the way regulators deal with wireless spectrum allocation. "We have to make fundamental change and we have to make it now to get the benefit of the digital dividend [of the end of analogue TV]," she told delegates.

Reding said the spectrum freed up by the switch to digital TV will be a "once in a generation opportunity", adding that regulators must be flexible and "get out of the command and control system".

The proposed uses for the vacated spectrum include housing mobile broadcast TV such as DVB-H or wireless broadband technologies such as WiMax.

In order for WiMax to take off, though, a new degree of flexibility must be introduced to regulation, according to Reding. "We are a long way off this however... the barriers are bureaucratic, not technical. It is governments' duty to get it right," she said.


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