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EU drops antitrust probe against 'E5' cellcos

Ends year-long investigation of whether the big five European operators use standards processes to disadvantage rivals


Published: 8 March, 2013

READ MORE: Europe | Regulator | Standards

The European Commission has dropped an antitrust investigation into the five largest mobile operators in the region after the preliminary stage.

A year ago, the Commission expressed concerns about whether the 'E5' group - Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telefonica, Vodafone and Telecom Italia - were colluding to set industry standards and make it hard for smaller operators to compete. It confirmed last March that it had requested information from the five companies and the GSM Association about how mobile standards were being developed.

It said its aim was to ensure that standardization processes were not being harnessed by major carriers to exclude or disadvantage competitors when next generation networks started to appear. However, it has dropped its probe, apparently reassured by the transfer of considerable standards work, previously carried out by the E5, to the GSMA and other industry bodies.

The EC said that it welcomed this transfer, which allows broader stakeholder participation, and in its statement, said this was a positive step to reduce the risk that the standards process could be anti-competitive. However, it said it would continue to keep a watching brief on how standardization processes continue to evolve.

A statement from the GSMA said that it "welcomes the closing of this case and will continue to work closely and cooperate fully with the EU Commission".

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