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April 20, 2015

Europe could crack down on WhatsApp and Skype

A draft document from the European Commission argues for a "level playing field."

By Alexander Sword

The European Commission plans to call for a "level playing field" between telecoms operators and their online rivals.

According to a draft document seen by the Financial Times and Reuters, Brussels will use its upcoming review of the markets to "design a fair and future-proof regulatory environment for all services."

As has often been claimed by telecoms operators themselves, over-the-top (OTT) services provided by companies such as WhatsApp and Skype are "not subject to the same rules". Currently these companies are not regulated in the same way as traditional providers, who are, for example, obligated to provide access to emergency calls.

The review may implement lighter-touch regulation to allow traditional telcos to react better to the threats from these new services, allowing them to invest more heavily in their networks.

An Ovum report in 2014 found that the industry will lose a total of $386 billion between 2012 and 2018 from customers using OTT applications.

The draft document comes ahead of the launch of new plans for a "digital single market" in the EU on May 6.

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