Brussels, 14 August 2002
The European Commission is putting pressure on five Member States that are holding up the introduction of a new wireless technology that could rival third generation (3G) mobile phones.
The technology, known as Wi-Fi or wireless fidelity, allows laptop users to access the Internet via wireless connections at much greater speeds then 3G. Wi-Fi has already a foothold in the USA. The goal is to create Internet access in 'hotspots' such as train stations, airports and hotels.
However, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Luxembourg have been guarding the regulation of the public use of the technology, which the Commission believes could hinder competitiveness. It is now pushing the countries to allow the technology.
The problem lies in the 120 billion euro invested by European companies in 3G technology that has been hit by a series of financial and technical setbacks. The Commission and large parts of the telecommunications industry believes that Wi-Fi is complementary to 3G and essential to the Commission's aim of rolling out broadband services to improve competitiveness.
Next July, the Commission will win new powers to overrule national telecoms regulators and has warned that any unfair restriction on the use of Wi-Fi technology could be a breach of EU law.