EU denies internal split on 3G network sharing

The European Commission denied Thursday that it is split on the question of whether to allow network sharing on the beleaguered 3G (third generation) mobile phone networks due to open up in June of next year.

Reports earlier Thursday claimed that telecommunication and information society commissioner Erkki Liikanen and competition commissioner Mario Monti are at loggerheads over whether network operators should be allowed to share one another's network infrastructure in order to keep down the costs of building the new networks.

"In principle the Commission is positive about the idea of network sharing," said Per Haugaard, spokesman on telecommunication and technology issues at the European Union's executive body.

"We see the potential economic gains, but network sharing could only occur on condition that competition laws are respected. There is no split with the views of the competition commissioner," he said.

Monti gave a speech earlier this week at the European Parliament in which he warned of potential problems that might arise from network sharing.

"We don't see a split with what Liikanen has said," said Amelia Torres, spokeswoman on competition matters. "All Mr. Monti said was that in such cases where companies get together, there could be potential concerns which would have to be looked at (by the competition regulators). This is what the competition regulators do with any concentration of companies in any field," she said.

Torres and Haugaard insisted that the Commission is not the problem in the 3G situation; it is trying to find a sensible solution to the problem arising from the haphazard allocating of 3G licenses by national governments in the 15 EU member states. "We are now faced with a situation where companies that have won licenses cannot afford to run them because they paid so much for the license at auction," said Torres.

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