On 22 July 2020, the UK government confirmed that it would largely implement the European Electronic Communications Code – the EU’s updated, harmonised regulatory framework for telecoms – into UK law by 21 December 2020.
This confirms the approach from that first announced in July 2019, providing welcome certainty, despite a change in the leader of the UK’s governing party, a general election and a hardening of the UK’s position on Brexit in the intervening period. While the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU requires the UK to abide by (and to implement new EU laws) until it leaves on 31 December 2020, the UK could have decided to merely adopt the new EU telecoms framework for 10 days, then immediately repeal it on 1 January 2021. Instead, the UK has decided to implement most of the European Electronic Communications Code, explaining:
Between autumn 2016 and summer 2018, the government negotiated the proposed changes to the regulatory framework alongside EU member states, which for the large part reflects UK best practice and objectives to promote investment in future-proofed networks.Matt Warman MP, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, 22 July 2020
The European Electronic Communications Code Directive ((EU) 2018/1972) modernises EU telecoms law by combining, updating and largely replacing the prior 2003 EU regulatory framework of:
- the Framework Directive (2002/21/EC)
- the Access Directive (2002/19/EC)
- the Authorisation Directive (2002/20/EC)
- the Universal Service Directive (2002/22/EC)
- the ePrivacy Directive (2002/58/EC)
- the Better Regulation Directive (2009/140/EC)
- plus various other regulations, recommendations and guidelines
In September 2019, the European Commission published an infographic summarising the new rules:
However, there are some aspects of the new EU law that the UK will either not implement, or will delay implementing.
As a result of Brexit, the UK explains that is has chosen not to implement provisions:
- for a harmonised approach through e.g. notifying the Commission, co-operating with the Commission and BEREC, following EU-wide regulations set by the Commission and BEREC
- addressing transnational markets in collaboration with other European regulators
- setting European-wide termination rates for mobile and fixed voice services
- extending the regulatory framework to include number independent interpersonal communications services (or NIICS) i.e. ‘over the top’ internet based communications
- enhancing the regulatory independence of Ofcom
Further, Ofcom has explained that as a result of COVID-19, the UK will be at least 12 months late in implementing the end-user protection aspects of the new EU telecoms law.