Here you’ll find the latest information from the VTKE: news, publications, position papers, interesting facts and our responses to important questions.
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19 June 2023 (HR): Croatian regulator HAKOM wants to anchor free terminal choice in a draft regulation - VTKE issues statement
In Croatia, a new Telecommunications Act was passed last year, which is now being concretised by further regulations. In this context, the national regulatory authority HAKOM is now consulting on the draft of “Rules on the method and conditions of performing the activity of electronic communication networks and services”, which among other things deals with the guarantee of free choice of terminal equipment.
The VTKE participated in the consultation of the draft regulation with a statement and welcomes in principle that HAKOM wants to anchor the free choice of telecommunication terminals in regulation. However, VTKE considers the addition of a binding and clear definition of the network termination point to be inevitably necessary in order to ensure complete, technology-neutral freedom of choice of terminal equipment directly at the broadband connection in Croatia.
Taking this addition into account, the Croatian regulation would create good conditions for the implementation of the European right to free choice of terminal equipment.
You can find VTKE’s full statement on the consultation here [EN].
27 January 2023 (NL): Dutch Internet users have been enjoying “router freedom” for a year now (press release)
Dutch Internet users have been enjoying “router freedom” for a year now
Individuals and corporate clients are able to choose modems and routers tailored to their security, technology and functionality requirements.
Amsterdam, 27 January 2023 – VTKE, an alliance of European telecommunications terminal equipment manufacturers, notes with satisfaction that the opening-up of the modem market a year ago, on 28 January 2022, has been very well received by customers in the Netherlands. Since then, consumers have been able to choose a device that fits their expectations exactly in terms of technology, security and functionality rather than being forced to use the one supplied by their Internet provider.
Freedom to choose
A VTKE survey* has revealed that the Dutch are very happy about their ability to pick any modem they like, with over two thirds (68 per cent) of respondents regarding it as very important. In addition, more than a third (35 per cent) said that they would buy their own terminal device if they changed provider, while 45 per cent would use the one they were given by their supplier.
For a long time, many providers claimed that a free choice of modem was not feasible on technical and security grounds, even though their arguments had already been extensively discussed and refuted. Neither have these fears been realised in the countries that already allow people to select their own router. Following in the footsteps of Finland (2014), Germany (2016) and Italy (2018), end users in the Netherlands (2022) can now choose between using their own device or their provider’s.
Benefits for consumers
Consumers benefit in various ways from a free choice of terminal device. For one thing, it gives the end user greater independence and digital autonomy. For another, it allows them to pick a router tailored 1:1 to their requirements and how they use the Internet. These requirements might include incorporating smart home applications or certain security specifications. If they are free to choose, they can find a router that offers them precisely these features. Another aspect is the open competition that the move creates and that results in a wider selection of increasingly innovative and affordable products becoming available. When end users switch Internet providers, they can keep their existing device and continue to use it without any reconfiguration required. As well as being very practical, this is also good for the environment. Similarly, the fact that a combo modem/router can replace the two devices that were previously used also enables energy and resource savings.
“In the past, anyone with a fibre, cable or DSL Internet connection had to use the devices supplied by their provider,” said a VTKE spokesman. “This ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution meant that the devices often didn’t offer the features people needed. Giving them the freedom to choose their own router allows consumers to pick the device that’s right for them. We feel relieved that the Dutch regulator introduced this last year and hope that other European countries will follow the Netherlands’ example.”
Lucas Lasota, Router Freedom Coordinator at the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), backs the decision by the Dutch regulator: “We’re watching the regulatory authorities closely as they implement the new telecommunications legislation. The Netherlands are playing a pioneering role in improving consumer protection in terms of the freedom to choose your own devices. A whole year of being able to choose any modem you like: that has to set a positive example for other EU countries to follow.”
* Survey commissioned by VTKE and conducted by the Kantar market research institute between 3 and 7 February 2022. Representative group in each country, age: 16–65
27 January 2023 (BE): Freedom to chose your router in Belgium: what are we waiting for? (press release)
Freedom to chose your router in Belgium: what are we waiting for?
Antwerp, 27 January 2023 – Will you soon be allowed to use your own modem? If it were up to VTKE, the European alliance of telecommunications terminal equipment manufacturers, then yes, you will! After all, the benefits are massive – just ask our neighbours to the north, because the Dutch have enjoyed “router freedom” for a year now. What’s the state of play in Belgium?
What does “router freedom” or “modem freedom” even mean?
Having a free choice of modem means that consumers can decide for themselves whether they want to use their own modem or the one supplied by their Internet provider. At the moment, end customers in Belgium are forced to use the modem given to them by their provider. Needless to say, this device will not always meet their requirements, as Lucas Lasota, Router Freedom Coordinator at the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), explains: “Network operators impose restrictions on end users by prohibiting them from using their own routers or modems. Just like how you are allowed to choose your own smartphone in Europe these days regardless of who your provider is, you should be able to do the same with your router or modem.”
Belgium lagging behind
In 2014, Finland became the first country in Europe to allow customers to pick their own modem.
Germany followed suit in 2016 and Italy in 2018, and people in the Netherlands have also enjoyed this freedom of choice since last year. In Belgium, the BIPT (Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications) is currently weighing up a similar move. At EU level, however, Regulation 2015/2120, which covers free modem choice, was adopted as long ago as 2015. A survey* has also shown that 77 per cent of Belgians believe that it is important to have a choice. As many as 24 per cent use their own device if their network operator permits it, while 62 per cent stick with their provider’s.
There have been some signs of progress in recent months, however, with the BIPT publishing an initial draft definition of the network termination point in October 2022. By establishing the network termination point as the “connecting socket to the line”, the draft would allow Belgian users to choose their own terminal device for all broadband technologies (fibre, cable and DSL). The BIPT does not see any technical reasons why freedom to choose one’s own modem cannot be granted.
Your modem, just how you need it
Being able to choose their own modem brings users manifold benefits. They can pick out a device themselves that meets their requirements 1:1 in terms of functionality, security, updates and many other factors such as incorporating smart home applications or certain security specifications. If they are free to choose, they can find a router that offers them precisely these features. Another aspect is the open competition that the move creates and that results in a wider selection of increasingly innovative and affordable products becoming available. “A ‘one-size-fits-all’ business model only allows the end user to benefit from a small handful of innovations,” a VTKE spokesman explains. “By contrast, the free market encourages innovation and gives users the power to decide based purely on their own needs and budget.”
* Survey commissioned by VTKE and conducted by the Kantar market research institute between 3 and 7 February 2022. Representative group in each country, age: 16–65
17 November 2022 (BE): Belgian regulator (BIPT) consults on draft regulation on router freedom - VTKE issues statement
The Belgian regulatory body BIPT recently published and consulted on a draft decision regarding the definition of the network termination point (Link). By specifying the network termination point at the “connection socket to the line”, the draft decision would allow Belgian users free choice of terminal equipment for all broadband technologies (fiber, cable and DSL).
In its statement, the VTKE welcomed the BIPT’s draft decision to locate the network termination point at the “connection socket to the line” and thus creating the opportunity for end-users to use a terminal device that meets their needs directly on their broadband connection. Accordingly, the VTKE would like to encourage the BIPT to adopt the present draft decision in this form as soon as possible.
The VTKE believes that a network termination point at the “connection socket to the line” and the associated freedom of choice of terminal equipment will contribute to more competition and thus innovation in the market for telecommunications terminal equipment. In addition, the possibility of free choice of terminal device also clearly corresponds to the wishes and needs of many Belgian users.
Like the BIPT, the VTKE is of the opinion that there are no technical reasons that stand in the way of the freedom of choice of terminal equipment. This is also supported by the success of corresponding regulations in other countries.
29 March 2022 (EU): Survey in seven EU countries: Desire for free router choice is very strong everywhere
VTKE survey on freedom of choice of terminal equipment
Survey in seven EU countries: Desire for free router choice is very strong everywhere
Berlin, 29.03.2022 – Users do not want their provider to stipulate which terminal device they use at their internet connection. This was the result of a representative survey conducted by the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) in Belgium, Germany, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Austria and Spain. Freedom of choice over the terminal device at the internet connection is of particular importance to consumers in these seven EU countries.
The most important survey results at a glance:
- In all countries, at least two-thirds of those surveyed consider the free choice of terminal device at their internet connection to be particularly important.
- In countries where there is no regulation on the free choice of terminal equipment, a very clear majority of consumers want free choice over the terminal device they use at their internet connection.
- Where free choice of terminal equipment is already anchored in regulation, it’s widely and enthusiastically used. On average, around 50 percent of those surveyed plan to purchase their own terminal device the next time they change devices.
Once again the survey results show: free choice of terminal equipment is proving to be a successful model in all countries, meeting users’ wishes and at the same time ensuring future innovation through competition for the best terminal device.
Survey results from countries with freedom of choice of terminal equipment:
In Germany, free choice of terminal equipment was introduced by law for all access technologies (fiber, cable, and DSL) on 1 August 2016. For example, 81 percent of respondents now consider freedom of choice over the terminal device on their broadband connection to be somewhat or very important. Half of those surveyed currently use a device they purchased themselves at home; only 45 percent rent a device from their provider.
In Finland, free choice of terminal equipment has been in place since 2014. For 72 percent of respondents freedom of choice is somewhat or very important. 61 percent of those surveyed would choose their own device again the next time they change devices, while only 18 percent would choose a provider device.
Since 2018, users in Italy have been able to decide for themselves about what terminal equipment they want to use thanks to a decision by the regulatory authority AGCOM. A remarkable 87 percent of respondents consider this freedom of choice and decision-making to be somewhat or very important. More than half (52 percent) plan to buy a device themselves the next time they have to get a new one. Just under a third (31 percent) want to use the device offered by their provider.
In the Netherlands, the free choice of terminal device on the internet connection was only recently introduced by the regulatory authority ACM – at the end of January 2022. More than two thirds (68 percent) of those surveyed consider this freedom of choice and decision-making to be particularly important. 35 percent of consumers are currently planning on buying their own terminal device the next time they switch devices, 45 percent would choose a device from the network provider, while 20 percent are still undecided.
Survey results from countries without freedom of choice of terminal equipment:
In Belgium, it’s generally not possible for most users to choose their own terminal device for their broadband connection. To date, there has been no national regulation. However, according to its working plan for 2022, the Belgian regulator BIPT plans to launch a public consultation on free choice of terminal equipment before the end of the first quarter. Here, too, a clear majority of 77 percent considers freedom of choice to be important. 24 percent use their own device on their connection if the network provider allows this, 62 percent have a provider device.
In Austria, the new Telecommunications Act (TKG 2021), which went into effect on 1 November 2021, has given the regulatory authority RTR the power to enable freedom of choice for consumers. However, RTR has not yet announced any concrete plans regarding this. Here, too, a majority of two thirds (67 percent) considers freedom of choice to be important. If they had the freedom to choose, 40 percent of respondents would want to buy their own terminal device the next time they switch, 30 percent would use the provider device, and 25 percent are still undecided.
In Spain, too, it’s generally not possible for end-users to use a device they’ve chosen themselves with their broadband connection. An overwhelming majority of 85 percent considers freedom of choice to be important. 20 percent of respondents use their own terminal device, while 75 percent got theirs from their provider. Next time, however, 39 percent would opt for their own device if they had free choice of terminal device; 47 percent would want to use the provider device.
On a country-by-country basis, users were asked whether freedom of choice over the terminal device connected to the internet is important or would be important (if they live in a country that doesn’t have freedom of choice of terminal equipment). The survey also asked whether the next time they change device, it would be a device they purchase themselves or one provided by their provider. A distinction was made between countries in which the free choice of terminal equipment is already legally binding (Germany, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands) and those in which there is currently no national regulation on the free choice of terminal equipment.
Source: VTKE survey conducted by market research institute Kantar from 3 to 7 February 2022. Representative panel for each country, ages 16 to 65
Note: Irrespective of the absence of binding regulation on the free choice of terminal equipment in the countries mentioned, individual network operators in these countries already allow their customers to choose the terminal equipment on their internet connection themselves, either depending on the access technology or comprehensively.
28 July 2021 (NL): Dutch consumers no longer obligated to choose modems offered by their provider (press release)
The word is out: The Dutch Consumer & Market Authority (ACM) has issued a new policy measure that specifies that consumers and companies in the Netherlands can now choose their own modem. The policy measure was published on July 27 2021 and will come into effect six months after its publication. This means that starting from early 2022, consumers will no longer be obligated to accept the modem offered by their Internet service provider, but will be able to choose the modem that best suits their needs. The VTKE – an alliance of European telecom equipment manufacturers – has been campaigning for years for free choice of modem and therefore welcomes this new directive.
The European Union has been in favour of free choice of modem since 2015 with Regulation 2015/2120. In 2014, Finland was the first European country to allow consumers to choose their own modem. Germany followed in 2016, and Italy in 2018. In the Netherlands, only a few network operators currently allow customers to choose which terminal device they want to use for their internet connection. This choice can still be one of the network operator’s own devices, but not necessarily. These network operators enable their customers to choose their own modem, which is very unusual in the Netherlands.
Rudi Stahl, Senior Business Development Manager at Gigaset, manufacturer of telephones and smart home products, among other things: “Providers in the Netherlands used to be able to decide which modem you as a customer got along with your subscription. And that’s rather strange, seeing as when you take out a telecom subscription, for example, you can decide for yourself which smartphone you want to use. So, why not have it be the same with modems? Providers pointed to supposed technical and security issues for not allowing free choice of modem, although these had already been extensively discussed and disproven on the basis of a study set up precisely for this purpose. Not suprisingly, the analysis of the proposed regulation come to the conclusion that: ‘On the whole, it can be stated that free choice regarding terminal devices has little effect on the functioning and security of the network.’” After the publication of this research report, things remained quiet. That was, until February 13 2019, when the State Secretary of Economic Affairs and Climate Change sent a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives about the sale of separate modems and security updates. In it, she wrote that she would leave the decision on the position of the network connection point to the ACM.
The ACM has now therefore drawn up a new policy measure, making it possible for consumers to choose their own modem. This will be received as good news by many Dutch people. A VTKE survey in March 2021 showed that almost half of the Dutch population (49 percent) considers freedom of choice of modem important. Moreover, an internet modem that provides an excellent internet connection has become essential in every household – this is particularly important now that we are working from home more than ever, which puts more pressure on our home network.
For years, the VTKE has been committed to making freedom of choice of modem a possibility, and is very pleased with this ruling. A VTKE spokesperson said: “Consumers themselves know exactly what they want when it comes to their home network, and they should always have the freedom to choose the modem that meets their needs. We are proud to see that all combined efforts have led to this result and we hope that this decision will also encourage other countries to start adapting their guidelines.”
22 July 2021 (DE): Five years of router freedom - Survey: Strong desire for independence among consumers – freedom of choice in Europe (press release)
Berlin, 22 July 2021 – For 80 percent of consumers in Germany, freedom of choice over the terminal device on their internet connection is of particular importance. Almost every second consumer makes the decision to purchase a device from a retailer or online. This was the result of a representative survey+ conducted by the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE). After five years, freedom of choice of terminal equipment is proving to be a successful model that will secure future innovation and enable users to use high-performance devices such as routers, phones or alarm systems. In other European countries, such as Italy, Finland, Austria, and the Netherlands, the free choice of end device has also been introduced or is in the process of being voted on in parliament.
In the survey, around 80 percent of participants said that freedom of choice when using an end device was important to them. In addition, the desire for independence manifests itself when deciding whether a device is to be purchased from a retailer or a provider. The desire to own a device has almost doubled in five years. Almost one in two respondents (44 percent) said they were currently considering buying their own device from a retailer. 37 percent would like to obtain their terminal device from their provider. Five years ago, a survey showed that a good one in four (27 percent) would opt to buy their own router. At that time, 42 percent opted for a device from their provider. In the current survey, the participants were again asked about connecting and setting up their router. 60 percent of those surveyed have connected a router at home in the last six months and describe the process as easy.
European guidelines for terminal device freedom
Last year, the European regulatory authorities – for Germany the Federal Network Agency – jointly determined that the private home network should generally begin at the connection socket on the wall. The definition of this “passive network termination point” enables consumers to choose their terminal equipment freely in any network (e.g., fiber, cable or DSL). In these countries this guideline is being followed or it is currently being consulted on politically:
Germany: Free choice of terminal equipment has existed since 1 August 2016.
Finland: Free choice of terminal equipment was introduced in 2014.
Italy: Since 2018, users have been able to freely choose their terminal device.
Netherlands: A regulation on the network termination point is set to be published this summer.
Austria: In the course of the passing of a new telecommunications act, the question of the definition of the network termination point and thus the restoration of free choice of terminal equipment is also being discussed.
Five years of terminal device freedom for diversity in the market
On 1 August 2016 the “ISP lock”, and with it compulsory routers, was abolished by law in Germany. Since then, internet users in Germany have once again been free to choose the terminal device that suits them for all access technologies – DSL, cable, fiber optics, mobile broadband – from retailers or providers.
Source: VTKE survey conducted by market research institute Kantar from 30 June to 7 July 2021 / 1051 respondents aged 16 to 65 in Germany.
2 July 2021 (AT): Digital Society discussion event Need for education on the topic of 'router freedom' remains high (press release)
2 July 2021 – This summer, the new Austrian Telecommunications Act will set the course for potential router freedom, and it will become clear whether or not consumers in Austria will be able to decide for themselves which terminal device they use on their internet connection. To mark this occasion, the Digital Society invited participants to a discussion event, which was attended by representatives of providers and the RTR regulatory authority, in addition to the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE). It turned out that there is still a need for clarification with regard to the consequences of the ISP lock/compulsory routers for consumers.
On 22 June 2021, the Digital Society hosted an online discussion on “Privacy, convenience, (network) security – Is router freedom coming?” In addition to Digital Society Vice President Roland Giersig and Dr. Gerd Thiedemann from the VTKE, the expert panel also included RTR Managing Director Dr. Klaus Steinmaurer, Alexander Stock, CTO at A1 Telekom Austria, and Harald Kapper, Managing Partner of internet service provider Kapper Network-Communications.
In her role as moderator, Barbara Steinbrenner from Die Presse newspaper noted that the political guidelines for the definition of the network termination point will be of decisive importance when it comes to the question of whether consumers will be allowed to use their own device on their internet connection in the future. The network termination point is the point at which the operator’s network ends and that of the customer begins. In other EU countries it is already regulated that the network of the provider ends at the passive (no current/power) socket on the wall and that end customers can therefore determine for themselves which end device they use.
Cascading compulsory devices and chosen devices is not router freedom
Without clear legal regulation of the network termination point, some providers interpret their own modem as the network termination point. It’s only behind this compulsory device that customers can operate their own end device that meets their individual requirements. In these cases, two devices must be operated by the end customer, which, in the opinion of the VTKE, makes neither ecological nor economical sense, since one device would be sufficient. In addition, this means it is often not possible to use all of the chosen router’s functions. Cascading a compulsory and a chosen device is not the same as actual free choice of terminal equipment.
Paragraph 49 will determine the decision
Should paragraph 49 of the new Telecommunications Act – as per the current draft – contain the RTR’s authorization to issue ordinances with regard to the definition of the location of the network termination point, this would merely be an “optional” provision, emphasized Dr. Klaus Steinmaurer during the discussion. The RTR would first have to evaluate whether regulation is necessary with regard to the location of the network termination point. Against this background (that according to the current situation, the RTR will be responsible for defining the network termination point) this means that future router freedom in Austria is anything but certain.
Disclosure of provider specifications
For each (access) technology, there are specifications and standards that ensure interoperability between the end device and the provider network. Network operators are already required to publish additional technical properties of the respective network in so-called “interface specifications”. As a representative of terminal equipment manufacturers, Dr. Gerd Thiedemann repeatedly emphasized that the interoperability between the provider network and privately purchased terminal equipment, which had been questioned by RTR and network operators, is guaranteed. In addition to the well-established standardization of network access technologies, the interface specifications of the network operators are also necessary for this. This information enables manufacturers to provide interface-compliant telecommunication terminal equipment on the market that is interoperable with the respective network. An increase in interference or security issues is then not to be expected when there is free choice of terminal equipment. RTR’s managing director Steinmaurer asked the network operators whether there was anything to be said against publishing their interface specifications. The fact is, however, that network operators are already required to publish the specifications of their network access interfaces under currently applicable Austrian law (cf. § 16 TKG 2003 and § 7 TKG draft).
The crucial question of support
One point of contention in the discussion was also the topic of customer service and support. The best possible customer service and support was central to both RTR and A1 Telekom. However, free choice of terminal equipment does not conflict with this service claim. This is because, similar to mobile communications, in the case of router freedom people in Austria can decide between the “all-round carefree package” including a terminal device and provider support and their own terminal device, for which the respective manufacturer then offers its own customer service, such as a service hotline that customers can contact.
Majority of Austrians would like to see an end to compulsory routers
With the exception of Dr. Gerd Thiedemann, the panelists were convinced that most Austrian end users are largely indifferent to whether or not they have freedom of choice over the terminal device on their broadband connection. However, a recent representative survey commissioned by VTKE member AVM shows just how important it is for Austrians to have free choice of terminal equipment, including for internet access.
Almost two out of three consumers in Austria (62%) find it “important” or even “very important” that their internet or network provider should no longer be able to make devices mandatory.
Free choice of terminal does not mean you have to use your own device
It is therefore all the more important that the unique opportunity to define the network termination point with the new Telecommunications Act precisely at the “connection socket at the line” is seized. This is the only way to guarantee true router freedom in Austria. Whether an individual user uses this freedom or prefers to continue using a device from their provider will in the future be up to them. However, an end to compulsory routers would ensure that end customers can use the terminal device best suited to their individual needs.
7 May 2021 (DE) Amendment to Telecommunications Act: Telecommunications terminal manufacturers welcome new law that confirms router-freedom for fiber optics (press release)
Berlin, 7 May 2021 – Manufacturers of routers, phones, telephone systems and other telecommunications terminal equipment see the new Telecommunications Modernization Act as confirmation of the free choice of terminal equipment in Germany. Following the Bundestag, the Bundesrat also approved the amendment to the Telecommunications Act today. In the future, users will continue to be able to choose their own terminal device for their broadband connection (e.g., fiber, cable, DSL or mobile). The passive wall socket as a network termination point applies regardless of the broadband technology and thus also for fiber optic connections. From the point of view of the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE), the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) is required to ensure that freedom of choice of terminal equipment is implemented. Fiber optic providers in particular do not comply with the legal requirements and do not allow consumers’ own terminal devices to be used at the passive network termination point.
Possibility of exception must remain an exception
The VTKE also warns that the new option included in the act to allow exceptions to the passive network termination point will de facto abolish freedom of choice of terminal equipment again.
Network operators can apply for exceptions to the network termination point by means of a general ruling via the Federal Network Agency. There are no technical reasons that require exceptions to the passive network termination point. The positive experience with terminal device freedom – regardless of broadband technology – confirms this.
Exceptions could also circumvent the consumer’s right to a free choice of terminal device. Switching providers would become more difficult because consumers would then no longer be able to use their end device freely wherever they want. This is not in the interests of consumer protection, freedom of choice of terminal equipment, or competition for more innovation.
Router freedom: A success story
Freedom of choice of terminal equipment has proven itself. Since the restoration of the free choice of end devices in 2016, many consumers have made use of their rights and millions have opted to buy their own terminal device from retailers. This gives them control over the full range of internet and telephony services and fast updates for their terminal devices. In addition, they save on the usually high rental charges that come with mandatory provider devices.
6 May 2021 (AT): Survey on free choice of end device at the internet connection - Majority wants end to compulsory routers (press release)
6 May 2021 – It is important for the majority of consumers in Austria to be able to decide for themselves which device they can use at their internet connection. This is the result of a representative survey. Up until now, however, the lack of a clear legal regulation has often prevented the use of one’s own terminal device directly at the broadband connection. This is problematic, not least when it comes to protecting the home network and personal data. The provisions in the new Telecommunications Act, which will probably be discussed and passed in the National Council before the summer, will therefore be decisive.
A clear majority would like to be able to decide for themselves which router they use at their internet connection This is the result of a representative survey commissioned by VTKE member AVM. Almost two out of three consumers in Austria (62%) find it important or very important that their internet or network provider should no longer be able to make devices mandatory. In their opinion, the providers should be obliged to provide the necessary internet access data. For only 12 percent would freedom of choice for end devices be “somewhat unimportant” or “completely unimportant”. More than a third of all consumers (34 percent) would even make immediate use of the free choice of terminal devices and use their own router. With just under 4 million private households in Austria, this would amount to around 1.3 million private lines.
Free choice of terminal device is important for best possible protection of own data
At present, the decision as to which devices can be operated directly at the internet connection lies with the respective provider. In contrast to mobile networks, where end customers can decide for themselves which device they want to use, many Austrians are therefore limited to what their provider offers. In addition, depending on the definition of the network termination point (NTP), the terminal device does not belong to the private network, meaning it’s possible for the provider to access it. The best possible protection of sensitive data is only possible if the terminal device is officially located in the private rather than the public network.
New Telecommunications Act in the National Council of decisive importance
The political guidelines on the definition of the network termination point in the new Telecommunications Act, which is to be discussed and passed by the National Council this summer, will be of decisive importance. The network termination point is the point at which the operator’s network ends and that of the customer begins. In EU countries such as Germany and Italy, the network ends at the socket on the wall. The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) also recommends the so-called passive network termination point in its guidelines. In this case, consumers can use the terminal device of their choice directly at the internet connection.
In Austria, where there is as of yet no clear legal definition of the network termination point, some providers interpret the modem as part of their network. If a user wants to use their own router in this case, they have to operate it behind the provider’s compulsory modem – and thus two devices. This leads to higher costs and additional power consumption. In addition, this means it is often not possible to use all of the chosen router’s functions.
A clear legal definition would be in the interests of consumers
If the network termination point in Austria is clearly and unambiguously defined as a “the socket on the wall” in line with European regulatory requirements, every end customer in Austria will be able to decide for themselves in the future whether they want to use a terminal device provided by the network operator at their own broadband connection – or one that better meets their requirements in terms of quality and functionality – for example when working from home. As the current survey shows, there is a strong desire for an end to compulsory routers in Austria.
[As part of the representative survey, 1,050 people in Austria were interviewed by media agency pilot on behalf of AVM GmbH in March 2021].
7 April 2021 (GR): Greek regulator plans to define the Network Termination Point (NTP) / VTKE participates in public consultation
The Greek regulatory authority EETT is dealing with the definition of the Network Termination Point (NTP) and in this context published its regulatory considerations for public consultation at the beginning of March (Link). Today the consultation period ended.
VTKE, which has long campaigned for end-users to be given free choice over the terminal equipment on their (broadband) connection, also submitted a statement to EETT.
We expressly welcome the fact that EETT would like to create more clarity with regard to the regulation of the NTP. We clearly advocate a definition of the NTP at point A, because only in this manner the free choice of telecommunications terminal equipment can be fully (re)established for all access technologies (DSL, cable and fibre) in Greece.
19 November 2020 (DE): Back door for compulsory routers: VTKE warns of circumvention of router freedom in planned amendment to law (press release)
Berlin, 19 November 2020 – A newly included paragraph in the draft amendment to the Telecommunications Act makes it possible to override freedom of choice of end devices in individual cases by way of an exemption clause. This opening clause carries the risk that consumer rights could be restricted and the free choice of terminal equipment de facto abolished. The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) is therefore calling for the paragraph to be removed from the draft law.
The VTKE welcomes the fundamental retention of the passive network termination point in Section 70 (1) of the draft. This definition is in line with BEREC’s guidelines for defining the network termination point and is the cornerstone for freedom of choice of terminal equipment in Germany (BEREC = Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications).
The new provision in § 70 (2), which states that the German Federal Network Agency may permit exceptions to the passive network termination point, leads to considerable legal uncertainty and is likely to de facto abolish the rights of consumers to free choice of terminal equipment. There are no technical reasons that require such exceptions. The extremely positive experience with the free choice of end devices over the past four years confirms this.
On the other hand, there are considerable risks and potential for abuse as a result of the new provision. For example, the possibility of exemption from the passive network termination point could be used to circumvent or massively complicate freedom of choice of terminal equipment. The VTKE sees a specific risk of a large number of network operators potentially applying for exceptions by general decree from the Federal Network Agency, which should actually be prevented by the clear definition of the network termination point as passive in the law.
For consumers, this would result in a confusing market situation in addition to their rights being restricted. At the same time, it would make it more difficult to change providers. Consumers would then no longer be able to assume that their terminal devices could be freely selected or continued to be used anywhere. This is not in the interests of consumer protection, freedom of choice of terminal equipment, or competition for more innovation.
The VTKE is therefore of the opinion that the exemption in Section 70 (2) should be removed. Otherwise it is possible that the freedom of choice of end devices would de facto be abolished in Germany.
17 September 2020 (DE): For more innovation and more broadband: Providers receive support from the German Federal Network Agency in implementing router freedom (press release)
17 september 2020 – The practical guide published by the project group of the Committee for Technical Regulation in Telecommunications (ATRT) of the Federal Network Agency gives router freedom another significant boost. The guide supports providers in publishing interface specifications, which is mandatory for them. These are important for the smooth interaction between network and end device such as smartphones, phones or routers.
The VTKE welcomes the recently published results of the project group. They enable providers to implement the interface specification in an even more transparent, practical and efficient manner. Innovations in the field of telecommunications terminal devices can also be realized even faster in the future. Terminal equipment manufacturers can reliably develop products that are compatible with networks. As more and more fiber connections are created by smaller, regional providers, adequate publication of interface specifications is particularly important. Only in this way can high-performance broadband infrastructure be expanded and used more quickly.
The “Interface descriptions according to §41c of the German Telecommunications Act” project group
With the right to connect for telecommunications terminal equipment, network operators are required to publish a technical description of their interfaces for access to the network and its services (such as internet access or telephony).
For this reason, the Committee for Technical Regulation in Telecommunications (ATRT), which advises the Federal Network Agency, set up a working group to deal with the practical implementation of publication requirements. This project group, consisting of network operators, terminal equipment manufacturers, users and experts from the Federal Network Agency, has now completed its work and published a practical guide for publishing interface specifications. Special consideration was given to network termination points in the next-generation network (NGN, e.g. xDSL, DOCSIS, FTTx, mobile networks) as well as the requirements for the development of IP / SIP-based telecommunication terminal devices.
Link to the project group’s mandate, final report and practical guidelines as well as the Federal Network Agency’s statement: www.bundesnetzagentur.de/atrt-pg-ssb
4 September 2020 (NL): VTKE welcomes the draft Beleidsregel netwerkaansluitpunt in the Netherlands
Today, the public consultation on the draft of the “Beleidsregel netwerkansluitpunt” ended. The VTKE has long been involved in discussions on the free choice of telecommunications terminal equipment in the Netherlands and has therefore also submitted a statement to the regulatory authority ACM.
The Beleidsregel in its current form would fully restore freedom of choice of terminal equipment in the Netherlands for all access technologies (DSL, cable and fiber). We therefore expressly welcome the draft regulation and hope that it will enter into force quickly.
Why do we welcome the Beleidsregel netwerkaansluitpunt?
- End-users will once again be able to use the terminal equipment (modems, routers, telephones, alarm systems, etc.) on their broadband connection that meets their wishes and needs.
- The free choice of terminal equipment promotes innovation and technological progress and thus also the sovereignty of the telecommunications terminal equipment industry in Europe.
- Changing network providers will once again become easier.
- The free choice of terminal equipment ensures clarity when it comes to data protection and increases IT security.
- The Beleidsregel meets all the requirements of the European Code of Electronic Communications (Directive (EU) 2018/1972) and the BEREC guidelines on common approaches to the identification of the network termination point in different network topologies (BoR (20) 46).
However, in our view, there is one aspect of the Beleidsregel in particular that needs to be adapted in terms of content in order to prevent circumvention of the freedom of choice of terminal equipment:
According to ACM’s explanation of the draft regulation (“toelichting”), there are some network termination points in the fiber optic network in particular that are active and do therefore not allow free choice of terminal equipment. These connections have to be converted in order to implement a passive network termination point. According to the Beleidsregel, the costs for this should be borne by the end-user.
We are of the opinion that the ACM should make it clear that end-users only have to pay for the actual costs (!) incurred for converting an active to a passive network termination point if an existing connection has to be converted. All new (after the Beleidsregel has come into force) connections must be implemented by the network operator immediately with a passive network termination point. The end-user must not be charged for this. Otherwise, network operators would have a means of ultimately impeding the free choice of terminal equipment.
In Italy, Germany, Latvia and Cyprus, the free choice of terminal equipment has already been restored and has been very successful. The objections of the opponents of the free choice of terminal equipment which are mainly technical, have proven to be unfounded in practice. We are therefore very confident that free choice of terminal equipment will also be a success in the Netherlands.
8 July 2020 (NL): Netherlands: ACM publishes draft regulation on the definition of the network termination point
The Dutch regulatory authority ACM has published a draft of a “Beleidsregel Netwerkaansluitpunt” and is consulting on it until 4 September 2020.
With the draft regulation on the definition of the network termination point, ACM aims to clarify which part of the network is under the sovereignty of the network operator and which part belongs to the end-user.
According to ACM, the Beleidsregel is intended to make it possible for end-users to connect their own terminal equipment to the network of their telecommunications provider. In this way, ACM says it wants to ensure that end-users have more freedom of choice and to promote innovation in terminal equipment.
Links to the press information on the publication of the draft “Beleidsregel netwerkaansluitpunt” and the draft “Beleidsregel netwerkaansluitpunt” (both in Dutch)
8 June 2020 (US): New U.S. law prohibits the charging of rental fees for terminal equipment purchased by customers themselves
The U.S. has introduced a new law that prohibits broadband and TV providers from charging rental fees for terminal equipment purchased by the customer. This means that network operators can also no longer charge rental fees for a terminal device such as a router that the customer has purchased themselves.
With the bill already passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the president, the new regulations were set to go into effect on 20 June 2020. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the effective date has now been delayed until 20 December 2020, to give providers more time to implement the new requirements.
With regard to the free choice of terminal equipment, U.S. law is a correct and important signal to network operators in our view, because it lowers the hurdles involved in acquiring one’s own terminal equipment. At the same time, it becomes more difficult for the network operator to discriminate against the use of self-selected devices.
6 March 2020 (EU): VTKE: BEREC Guidelines on the Identification of the Network Termination Point make Europe-wide freedom of choice of terminal equipment possible
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (Verbund der Telekommunikations-Endgerätehersteller, VTKE) welcomes the fact that the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has published its Guidelines on the Identification of the Network Termination Point.
In accordance with the guidelines, the national regulatory authorities can now define the network termination point in a legally secure and unambiguous manner at the passive socket on the wall (subscriber line).
By defining the location of the network termination point as the “socket on the wall”, end-users are able to purchase a terminal device that best meets their individual needs from a retailer and use it on whatever connection they may have.
The guidelines also deal with ‘objective technological necessities’ which could justify the network termination being located somewhere other than the ‘socket on the wall’. In this context, the VTKE notes that there are no technical reasons against free choice of terminal equipment. This has been confirmed in countries where freedom of choice of terminal equipment has already been restored and is being practiced very successfully (such as Italy or Germany).
A Europe-wide harmonization of network termination point regulation, with the aim of restoring freedom of choice of terminal equipment throughout the European Union, is now possible on the basis of the BEREC guidelines. This will lead to open and fair competition in the market for telecommunications terminal equipment and therefore an increase in innovative products from which end-users in particular will benefit.
The BEREC Guidelines on the Identification of the Network Termination Point can be found here (PDF document).
16 January 2020 (EU): VTKE participates in the consultation of the BEREC guidelines for the definition of the network termination point
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) recently participated in the public consultation on the draft of the “BEREC Guidelines on common approaches to the identification of the network termination point in different network topologies”.
The VTKE expressly welcomes the fact that BEREC is dealing with the definition of the network termination point. The guidelines will be decisive for the free choice of terminal equipment throughout Europe and – in the best case – will help ensure that this choice is restored in all EU member states.
However, there is also a real danger that so-called “router compulsion” will manifest itself by defining the network termination point in the wrong place, which should be avoided under any circumstances.
A summary of the opinion is available here (PDF file).
24 October 2019 (EU): Success story: free choice of terminal equipment fosters innovation and consumer empowerment
Success story: free choice of terminal equipment encourages innovation and consumer empowerment
In the interests of end users and lively competition in the telecommunications terminal equipment market, freedom of terminal equipment leads to innovation and product diversity. When it comes to the gigabit networks of the future in particular, the free choice of terminal equipment is an innovation driver.
End users in particular will therefore benefit from freedom of terminal equipment, as they will be able to choose the product that best meets their needs for performance, quality and security from a wide range of innovative, high-performance terminal equipment and use it at their connection.
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) is convinced that free choice of terminal equipment is a success story. Therefore, in the opinion of our Alliance, a consistent implementation or restoration of terminal freedom is required for all access technologies.
27 August 2019 (DE): VTKE: Network operators must comply with applicable legal requirements on free choice of terminal equipment
The media are currently reporting that individual network operators are not complying with the legal requirements on the free choice of terminal equipment for fiber optic connections. This is justified by an ongoing project group of the Committee for Technical Regulation in Telecommunications (ATRT) of the German Federal Network Agency, which cannot, however, have a mandate to suspend legally applicable requirements.
Against this background, the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) would like to set the record straight:
In principle, according to the German Telecommunications Act, network operators are not allowed to refuse to connect end devices if they meet the requirements. They can provide their customers with terminal equipment, but are not permitted to make its connection and use mandatory. This is current law and it applies to all access technologies – whether DSL, cable, fiber optics or LTE. It follows that all network operators must allow their customers to use their own terminal equipment. With the coming into effect of the Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Act, end users’ freedom of choice was legally confirmed. Since then, they have been able to choose from the multitude of innovative terminal devices the one that best suits their needs and wishes.
The law on the selection and connection of telecommunications terminal equipment, which has already been in force since 2016, also clearly defines the network termination point as “passive”. This legal requirement also currently applies to DSL, cable, fiber optics and LTE. No market player is entitled to redefine the network termination point on its own authority – not even for a limited period of time – according to its needs or ideas.
The VTKE is astonished that some large network operators no longer adhere to the applicable legal requirements. This is particularly bothersome in view of the fact that the regulation has been implemented by all market participants since it came into force around three years ago and has been very positively received by users in particular.
The reason given for suspending free choice of terminal equipment for fiber optic connections is the ongoing work of the ATRT project group, which, according to the network operators, is concerned with defining the network termination point. However, this is clearly not the case. Rather, the ATRT is intended to support the market when it is required to publish the description of network access interfaces. To this end, it has set up a project group in which network operators, terminal equipment manufacturers and users are working on recommendations for “implementing the publication obligations […] for interface descriptions operators of public telecommunications networks for connecting telecommunications terminal equipment”. The aim of this project group is to produce a practical guideline that will indicate what the interface descriptions should contain. The project group’s work is also based on the legislator’s definition of the network termination point as “passive” for all access technologies, which – contrary to what is implied elsewhere – is in no way open to debate. In this respect, a time-limited constraint for active terminal devices is also unjustified and, above all, not technically necessary.
In addition, the basic obligation of network operators to provide or publish accurate and adequate interface descriptions remains unaffected by the work of the project group, so that network operators still have to publish their interface specifications Otherwise, the legislator’s intended freedom of choice for end users will be undermined and technological innovations in the field of telecommunications terminal equipment will be prevented.
The VTKE still considers the work of the project group to be very important and shares the ATRT’s intention to optimize the publication practice of the interface descriptions. On the basis of these interface descriptions, the terminal device manufacturers are able to compete for the best terminal device under the same conditions to develop innovative products, which ultimately benefits the user.
The VTKE therefore considers it essential and something that should be a given that all market players – including large network operators – adhere to the applicable laws and regulations so that users can continue to have a free choice of terminal devices for all access technologies.
The law on the selection and connection of telecommunications terminal, which was passed unanimously by the German Bundestag and confirmed by the EU Commission as conforming to applicable European law, also applies to all market participants today.
24 July 2019 (DE): Survey: 80 percent of users reject obligatory routers - consumers value independence
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) can look back very positively on three years of freedom of choice when it comes to terminal equipment. For many users, freedom of choice at internet connections is very important and they therefore decide to purchase a device in store or online. The free choice of terminal equipment is thus proving to be a successful model.
80 percent value freedom of choice
A recent study* underlines the importance of freedom of choice of terminal equipment for users: Around 80 percent of those surveyed said that having the option of using their own terminal device is important to them. This enables them to choose a product that best meets their actual needs when it comes to performance, functionality and safety.
Consumers are also making active use of their rights. Many users make the decision to purchase a device from a retailer. In recent years, millions of terminal devices have been purchased freely on the market, i.e. not provided by the provider.
Free choice of terminal equipment leads to more variety on the market
On 1 August 2016 the necessity to use obligatory routers was abolished by law in Germany. Since then, private and commercial end users in Germany have once again been free to choose whether they want to purchase a terminal device from a retailer or use the one from the provider for all access technologies (DSL, cable, fiber optics and LTE).
The reinstated competition for the best terminal device – such as routers, telephones, telephone systems, alarm systems etc. – has led to a greater variety of innovative, high-performance products on the market. This benefits users in particular, who now have the option of purchasing a product that best suits their needs.
*Source: VTKE survey conducted by the market research institute Kantar from 27 June to 1 July 2019 / 1,051 respondents aged 18 to 69 in Germany
6 June 2019 (EU): VTKE at the BEREC Workshop on Net Neutrality: The 'socket on the wall' is the network termination point
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) held a workshop in Brussels on 29 May 2019 as part of the review of the guidelines on net neutrality.
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) took part, giving a presentation which referred to the provision in Article 3 (1) of Regulation EU 2015/2120 that end-users have the right to “use terminal equipment of their choice”.
Despite this clear legal obligation and the mandate given in the guidelines to national regulatory authorities to investigate abusive behavior, in some European countries network providers are restricting their customers’ freedom of choice of terminal equipment.
The future BEREC guidelines should ensure a consistent implementation of the right of end-users to choose their terminal equipment. The VTKE points out that, even for future network topologies and technologies, and in particular for the upcoming high-speed networks, telecommunications terminal equipment is characterized by the direct connection to the physical transmission medium of the subscriber connection. The electrically/optically passive socket to the local loop (telephone, coaxial or fiber line) fulfils all legal requirements for a network termination point and only this passive socket realizes the required freedom of choice of terminal equipment for the consumer.
In addition, it should be obligatory for network providers to provide end-users with the access and/or configuration data necessary to connect their terminal equipment to the network in order to enable the use of all contractually agreed services.
28 February 2019 (NL): Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs blocks free choice of terminal equipment (press release)
In response to a parliamentary request, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs declared that it will not implement the so-called “beleidsregel netwerkaansluitpunt”, which defines the network termination point (NTP) in more detail. The NTP determines where the provider’s network ends and the private and/or commercial customer’s own network begins. The current decision prevents internet users in the Netherlands from being able to determine for themselves which terminal device – router, modem – they use for their internet access.
This turnaround is incomprehensible for the Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE): The Dutch government had long been committed to promoting the free choice of terminal equipment and had conducted a public consultation on the subject between December 2017 and February 2018. The main argument of the network operators that a free choice of terminal equipment would have a negative impact on the functionality and security of their networks was refuted in an expert opinion commissioned by the government in the autumn of 2018.
In the view of the VTKE, there are therefore no grounds, either in terms of content or time, for preventing implementation. The VTKE sees the “socket on the wall” as the network termination point as the basis for consumer freedom of choice. This definition is already standard in some countries, where it leads to product innovation and open competition. In addition, the free choice of terminal equipment is explicitly provided for in EU law.
The VTKE campaigns to secure the success of the liberalization of the telecommunications market in general, and, in particular, to restore the free choice of terminal equipment.
16 January 2019 (EU): VTKE welcomes European guidelines on the identification of the network termination point
The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) will draw up new European guidelines for determining the network termination point (NAP). The NTP is the point of connection for telecommunications terminal equipment. Already in five countries (Germany, Italy, Netherlands (planned), Cyprus, Latvia) the NTP is defined as the “socket on the wall”, guaranteeing freedom of choice when it comes to terminal equipment. In the mobile communications sector, the free choice of terminal devices, such as mobile phones or LTE routers, has been both the norm and an innovation driver for years.
The Alliance of Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Manufacturers (VTKE) sees the “socket on the wall” as the NTP as the basis for consumer freedom of choice. This definition of network termination point is already standard in some countries, where it leads to innovative products and open competition.
As a comprehensive basis, BEREC published the document BoR (18) 159 “Location of the Network Termination Point”, which provides an overview of the current status of the definition of an NTP in European Union member states.
Since 1 August 2016, users in Germany have been able to freely select their terminal device. Competition for the best end device – such as routers, telephones, telephone systems, alarm systems etc. – has led to a greater variety of innovative, high-performance products on the market in recent years. This is of particular benefit to users. They can use the products that best meet their needs when it comes to performance, functionality and security.
The guidelines for determining the NTP will now be developed by a BEREC working group, followed by a public consultation.