3G – EC won

Cash-strapped mobile phone operators seeking changes in their 3G (third-generation) licenses to ease market consolidation were offered little hope of support from the European Commission on Wednesday.

“In principle, 3G licensing conditions should not be changed in order to ensure a predictable environment and legal certainty favourable to long-term investments,” the Commission concluded in a document based on consultations with governments and operators in the member states over the past year.

The document stated that changes in license conditions could be envisaged only if circumstances have changed “unpredictably” and in those cases any modification should be “proportional and transparent.”

Pointing to the need for change in allocating precious frequencies in the future, the Commission said, “a more flexible framework for handling rights to use radio spectrum needs to be discussed.”

However, the Commission has only an advisory role in the issue. The power to renegotiate 3G licenses, according to the Commission, rests solely with national governments. And they, for the most part, have shown little interest in unravelling the complicated licenses and opening the door to a flood of lawsuits.

In Germany, where pleas for change are growing louder by the day, the government has shown no interest in making any changes to 3G licenses. The government, said Horst Ehrnsperger, director of telecommunications policy at the German Ministry of Economics and Technology, speaking at a conference last month, is “aware of the concerns of a few mobile operators” but has “absolutely no plans to change the license conditions.”

France, however, has slightly eased the terms of its 3G licenses by reducing a government-set price and extending the length of the licenses.

Mobile companies in Europe spent more than

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