European telcos have no plan for an EU-wide network, officials say

A Financial Times article jumps the gun

Contrary to a report in the Financial Times on Wednesday, Europe's leading telecommunications networks have no imminent plans for a pan-European network, nor was such an idea backed by the European Union's competition authority.

According to the FT article, the idea of pooling infrastructure came about during a meeting between Europe's top telecom executives and Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. But Almunia's spokesman said on Thursday that reports that the commissioner "initiated, suggested or endorsed" any plans for network-sharing were "simply inaccurate."

Meanwhile, ETNO (the European Telecommunications Network Operators association) confirmed to the IDG News Service on Thursday that although a meeting had taken place between some of its members and the commissioner on Nov. 28, it focused mainly on the support for Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes' initiative for next-generation networks.

"During the meeting, the aspect of the competition in the sector, in particular the consolidation, and the possibility to create a single European telecom market was discussed and ETNO members believe that sector consolidation could help both to achieve a single market and to enable market players to achieve scale and be more competitive. But the creation of a pan-European shared network was not on the agenda of the meeting and is not on the agenda of ETNO," said ETNO spokesman Thierry Dieu.

The companies involved, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia and Spain's Telefonica, are facing increasing competition from technology companies worldwide. They may need to consider radical solutions in the future. However, any ideas would have to be in line with Europe's tough competition laws.

In the past, Almunia has been tough on national mergers that could reduce competition, but may be open to ideas that strengthen Europe's single market.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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