Europe‘s Telecommunication Plan
On 28th May, Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner responsible for digital matters, is due to address the European Telecoms council. The purpose of the meeting is to allow Ms Kroes to brief the telecoms ministers of the 27 EU states on the EU’s proposals for the development of telecommunications over the next five years. Ms Kroes is fairly new to her post, having previously been competition commissioner.
Whilst the full plan details have not yet been announced, Ms Kroes is known to be keen on creating a single Europe wide communications area. This would stop the current practices of high mobile roaming charges, higher rates for telephone calls between EU countries together with the cost of internet downloads whilst abroad.
Although roaming costs were reduced last year following EU negotiations with the telecommunications industry, the new 5 year plan is understood to go much further in opening up competition and cutting costs to the benefit of consumers. Some industry sceptics believe that Ms Kroes may have had to water her plans down following opposition from the industry and representations made by some governments. The document is therefore eagerly awaited by everyone who has an interest in international communications.
In the meantime, companies who have an international presence are already working to enhance their communications whilst keeping their costs down. Developments such as VOIP which allows telephone conversations via the internet are becoming common practice for business meetings. Because VOIP calls are routed via the internet the cost is generally less than that offered by standard telephone line providers. VOIP can also support video conferencing which either enhances or destroys the discussion, depending on your point of view. Certainly the use of VOIP video conferencing has caught out many staff working from home who suddenly realise that shorts in the back garden don’t lend themselves to a businesslike image.
Anyone, business or individual, with a broadband connection can currently benefit from the cost savings generated through VOIP technology. For other forms of international communication we await Ms Kroes’ report with interest.