Regulation & Legislation

Regulation of information and communications technologies is often an emotive subject, and it is not always easy to find the most effective level of regulation. ETSI is not a regulatory organization, but we do support regulation and legislation (in Europe especially) with technical standards and specifications.

The benefits of regulation include:

  • Stimulating a transition from a traditionally monopolistic telecommunications industry to a fully functioning market system which favours more competitiveness, more dynamic economy, and safeguards public and users interests i.e. low prices, better services
  • Better for consumers and business
  • Ensuring technological neutrality i.e. reference to 'electronic communications' and not simply to 'telecommunications'
  • Avoids the exclusion of some social groups from essential public services (by imposing a Universal Service obligation)
  • A continuous regulatory process helps ensures that new entrants can join the market
  • A regulatory environment is more stable and predictable.

A new European regulatory framework

A new legal framework regulating electronic communications networks and services (wireless or fixed, data or voice, internet based or circuit switched, broadcasting or personal communication) has been established in the European Union and became applicable in all Member States from 25 July 2003. The aim was to simplify and replace the numerous previous legislative measures.

The new European Regulatory Framework extends and adapts the benefits of the liberalization to electronic communication in general. It is also designed to encourage collaboration between the national regulatory authorities of the Member States and between those national authorities and the European Commission.

Key documents

The new regulatory framework consists of six Directives and an important Decision:

  • Framework Directive: Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. It outlines the general principles, objectives and procedures.
  • Authorization Directive: Directive 2002/20/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 2002 on the authorization of electronic communications networks and services. It replaces the individual licences by general authorizations to provide communications services.
  • Access and Interconnection Directive: Directive 2002/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 2002 on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities. Sets out rules for a multi-carrier market-place, ensuring access to i.e. networks and services, interoperability.
  • Universal Service Directive: Directive 2002/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 2002 on Universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services. Guarantees basic rights for consumers and minimum levels of availability and affordability.
  • e-Privacy or Data protection Directive: Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector. Covers protection of privacy and personal data communicated over public networks.
  • Directive on Competition (Liberalization Directive): Directive 2002/77/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of September 2002 on competition in the markets for electronic communications services. Consolidates previous liberalization Directives.
  • Radio Spectrum Decision: Decision No 676/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 2002 on a regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the European Community. Sets the principles and coordination procedures essential for the development of a coherent EU radio spectrum policy.

Other document of interest:

  • Radio Equipment Directive (RED): Directive 2014/53/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on the harmonisation of the laws of the Member States relating to the making available on the market of radio equipment and repealing Directive 1999/5/EC Text with EEA relevance

ETSI, together with the other two European Standards Organizations (ESOs), CEN and CENELEC, receive Mandates from the European Commission to develop standards (notably Harmonised Standards) in support of European regulation and legislation for information and communication technologies (ICT).

The ESOs agree together whether and how they want to respond to a specific mandate: for example, which of the ESO will carry out or lead the work. If the mandate is accepted, the European Commission establishes a contract (called an Order Voucher) with the individual ESO. Usually, the contract is accompanied by funding from the European Commission, but this need not always be the case.

Co-ordination within ETSI

ETSI's Operational Co-ordination Group (OCG) has established an ad-hoc group on Electronic Communications Networks and Services Directives. The group is known as OCG ECN&S.

Its main role is to provide a horizontal co-ordination structure for issues related to ETSI's support for the implementation of the European Directives and related Documents. In particular, the group co-ordinates ETSI activities that are the subject of Mandates.

Article 17 of the Framework Directive requires the ESOs to provide a list of standards that can form the basis for voluntary harmonization (or, potentially, as compulsory standards to ensure interoperability or access to networks or services). ETSI has established this list in a Special Report, SR 002 211.

It is the task of the ECN&S group to co-ordinate ETSI contributions to the Special Report.

Radio spectrum issues

ETSI works closely with the European Commission and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) to co-ordinate European requirements for radio spectrum.

Electromagnetic compatibility

ETSI produces standards for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) of ICT equipment and systems used in a wide range of applications. Much of the EMC work relates to European Commission Directives and ETSI has a strong co-operation with the European Commission, CENELEC, CISPR and other organizations for these matters.


Various European Commission Directives address the subject of safety and much of the supporting technical standardization work is done by organizations other than ETSI. However, ETSI monitors this work and contributes to it when appropriate.