Dynamic telecoms market requires modern legal bases

Bern, 19.11.2014 - The Federal Council today issued a new telecommunications report which gives the go-ahead for revision of the Telecommunications Act. The Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) has been tasked with preparing a suitable bill by the end of 2015. Individual issues which are not ready for a decision at present will be regulated during a second, later stage.

As in 2010 and 2012, the Federal Council is submitting another report in the form of the 2014 Telecommunications Report intended to promote growth of the Swiss telecommunications market. It identifies the need for legislative action in various areas. However, the Federal Council seeks to approach revision of the Telecommunications Act in stages and, in a first stage, confine revision to those issues that are ready for a decision and need to be enshrined in law as rapidly as possible.

International roaming

Although Swiss prices for international roaming in Europe have fallen, they are still higher than those of European competitors. However, the Federal Council has rejected the concept of specifying capped prices. Instead, providers will have to offer their Swiss customers so-called local breakout (LBO), providing this gains acceptance in other European countries. LBO means that domestic providers must enable their customers who travel abroad to use the offerings of locally-based providers for their mobile data communications. In addition, providers are to be obliged to offer per second billing, as in the EU.

Protection of consumers and young people

In relation to consumer protection, the regulations to combat the excesses of telephone marketing are to be strengthened, particularly in order to take more effective action against calls from abroad that use false numbers (so-called spoofing). The provisions for value-added services are also set to be scrutinised in greater detail. The objective must be to ensure that new types of offerings, for instance in the internet, must also fall within the scope of protection regulations enacted in telecommunications legislation if they are comparable, in terms of appearance and potential damage, to traditional value-added services (e.g. services that use 090x numbers) which are already currently covered. Finally, there is a need to oblige telecommunications service providers to inform customers about youth protection measures, namely the use of filters designed to filter out content that is unsuitable for children and young people.

Legal regulation of market players

The rise of the internet and the services offered over it has resulted in a radically altered telecommunications landscape. The revision of legislation must create certainty regarding which market participants are subject to the Telecommunications Act. Differentiated regulations that have been adapted to cater for the world of modern communications must ensure that players who market comparable offerings are subject to comparable rights and obligations. On the other hand, the obligation to notify must be abolished in order to reduce the administrative workload.

Network infrastructure: creating the optimal conditions

Regulating network access is crucially important for safeguarding competition in the telecoms market. In this first revision stage, the Federal Council will examine whether the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) should be able to step in officially if it observes any behaviour that obviously contravenes the provisions of telecommunications law. Intervention based on such a provision can be envisaged in particular in the case of mobile termination charges or interconnection charges for 058 numbers. In order to encourage further expansion of high-speed broadband, a broadly drafted right to access passive physical infrastructure such as cable ducts needs to be enshrined in law.

This will be followed by more fundamental amendment of the universal service during a later phase. The same applies to a far-reaching system change in relation to the access regime. In order not to compromise the current buoyant level of investment in expansion of high-speed broadband in particular, network access rules must initially not be designed in a technology-neutral fashion.

With the 2014 Telecommunications Report, the Federal Council is not only ushering in amendment of the Telecommunications Act, it is also fulfilling the postulate of the Transport and Telecommunications Committee (TTC) of the Council of States regarding development of prices for international roaming.

Swiss Confederation's stake in Swisscom

Furthermore, in the report the Federal Council includes the matter of various parliamentary procedural requests in 2006 regarding the Swiss Confederation's stake in Swisscom. In this regard it comes to the conclusion that the majority holding of the Swiss Confederation should be maintained and that pending proposal based on this report should be abandoned.

Address for enquiries

Annalise Eggimann, Vice-Director and Co-Director of the Telecom Services Division, Federal Office of Communications OFCOM
+41 58 460 55 82, annalise.eggimann@bakom.admin.ch
René Dönni, Vice-Director and Co-Director of the Telecom Services Division, Federal Office of Communications OFCOM
+41 58 460 55 43, rene.doenni@bakom.admin.ch


The Federal Council

Federal Office of Communications

General Secretariat of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications; General Secretariat DETEC