European Commission closes preliminary investigation into E5

On 7 March 2013 the European Commission announced that it had closed its preliminary investigation into E5, i.e. Europe’s five leading telecom operators (Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telefonica, Vodafone and Telecom Italia), regarding the way standards for future mobile communications are developed.

On 15 March 2012 the Commission confirmed that it had requested information from the E5 and GSMA, the mobile sector association. This was after the Financial Times reported about the periodic meetings between the bosses of these five companies from 2010 onwards.

The Commission investigated whether the standardization process for future mobile communications services was being improperly used to strategically foreclose competitors.

The Commission noted that “the standardization work formerly conducted by the E5 has been transferred to the GSMA and other industry associations” as this allows for more stakeholder participation. This transfer is welcomed by the Commission which describes it as a positive step to reduce the risk of standard setting work affecting competition negatively. Accordingly, the Commission decided to close its preliminary investigation.

However, it has to be noted that GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide and of more than 100 mobile operators in the European Union. Accordingly, GSMA’s primary objective will be to support its members. In its press release the Commission therefore writes that it will remain watchful of the evolvement of the standardization process in the telecommunications sector. [Nicole Daniel]