Summary of EU Authorisation Directive




Editor’s Note:


The full name of the Authorisation Directive is: Directive 2002/20/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services


The following summary of the Authorisation Directive is adapted from: “European Union- Summaries of Legislation”, the full text of which is available at:


The full text of the Directive is available at:


 EU Authorisation Directive



Summary of Directive


The Authorisation Directive is part of the "Telecoms Package", the new legislative framework governing the electronic communications sector which came into effect in July, 2003, replacing the European Union’s previous legislation on telecommunications. The Package comprises five directives relating to the general regulatory framework, authorisation, interconnection, universal service, and the protection of privacy.


Scope, objective and general principles


The provisions of this Directive cover authorisations for all electronic communications networks and services, whether they are provided to the public or not.  However, the provisions only apply to the granting of rights to use radio frequencies where such use involves the provision of an electronic communications network or service, normally for remuneration.


The aim is to establish a harmonised market for electronic communications networks and services by limiting regulation to the minimum that is strictly necessary.


The main innovation is the replacement of individual licences by general authorisations, while a special scheme for attributing frequencies and numbers continues to exist.  According to this principle, the provision of electronic communications networks or services may only be subject to a general authorisation.  In other words, the undertaking concerned may be required to submit a notification but it may not be required to obtain an explicit decision or any other administrative act by the national regulatory authority (NRA) before exercising the rights stemming from the authorisation.


A clear distinction is made between the conditions applicable under the general authorisation and those linked to the rights to use radio frequencies and numbers.


Minimum rights derived from the general authorisation


The general authorisation gives undertakings the right to provide electronic communications networks and services and to negotiate interconnection with other providers in the European Community.  When such undertakings provide electronic communications networks or services to the public, the general authorisation makes them eligible to be designated to provide certain universal service functions.


Rights of use for radio frequencies and numbers


Where possible, Member States must not make the use of radio frequencies subject to the grant of individual rights of use, but should include the conditions for usage of such radio frequencies in the general authorisation.  Where it is necessary to grant individual rights of use for radio frequencies and numbers, Member States must grant such rights, upon request, to any undertaking providing networks or services under the general authorisation, subject to the provisions of the Directive.


Decisions on rights of use must be taken and made public as soon as possible after receipt of the complete application by the NRA.  This must be done within three weeks in the case of numbers that have been allocated for specific purposes within the national numbering plan, and within six weeks in the case of radio frequencies that have been allocated for specific purposes within the national frequency plan.


Conditions attached to the general authorisation and to specific rights of use


The general authorisation and the rights of use may be subject only to the conditions listed in the Annex to the Directive relating to:

·  financial contributions to funding of the universal service;

·  interoperability of services and interconnection of networks;

· accessibility and portability of numbers- portability means that users have the option to keep their telephone number when they change operators;

·  rules on privacy protection and, more specifically, the protection of minors;

·   the obligation to transmit certain television and radio programmes (must carry);

·  environmental and town and country planning requirements;

· the possible imposition of administrative charges on undertakings; and

· restrictions concerning the broadcast of illegal content.


Compliance with the conditions of the general authorisation or of specific rights of use


The NRAs may require the undertakings concerned to provide information necessary to verify compliance with the conditions of the general authorisation or of rights of use.


Where an undertaking does not comply with one or more of these conditions, the NRA must give it a reasonable opportunity to state its views or remedy any breaches within a period agreed with the undertaking or specified by the NRA.  If the undertaking concerned does not remedy the breaches within the set period, Member States may empower the relevant authorities to impose financial penalties where appropriate.  In cases of serious and repeated breaches, the NRAs may prevent an undertaking from continuing to provide electronic communications networks or services or suspend or withdraw rights of use.


Procedure for limiting the rights of use for radio frequencies


Where a Member State is considering whether to limit the number of rights of use to be granted for radio frequencies, certain conditions and procedures have to be followed, such as consultation of all interested parties, publication of any decisions together with the reasons, and the review, at reasonable intervals, of the limitation.


Where the granting of rights of use for radio frequencies needs to be limited, Member States must grant such rights on the basis of selection criteria which must be objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate.


Where a Member State concludes that further rights of use for radio frequencies can be granted, it must publish that conclusion and invite applications for such rights.


Administrative charges and fees


The NRAs are authorised to impose administrative charges on undertakings providing a service or a network under the general authorisation or to whom a right of use has been granted. Administrative charges may include costs for international cooperation, harmonisation and standardisation, market analysis and regulatory work. The imposition of administrative charges requires NRAs to publish a yearly overview of their administrative costs and of the total sum of the charges collected.


The competent authority may also charge a fee for the rights of use of radio frequencies and for rights to install facilities.


Review and transposition


Not later than three years after the date of application of the Directive, the European Commission must report to the European Parliament and to the Council on the functioning of the national authorisation systems and the development of cross-border service provision within the Community.  Member States must adopt and publish the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive by 24 July 2003 at the latest.



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