A study of performance and regulation in telecommunications in the European Union

  • Thoralf Dassler

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis looks at two issues. Firstly, statistical work was undertaken examining profit margins, labour productivity and total factor productivity in telecommunications in ten member states of the EU over a 21-year period (not all member states of the EU could be included due to data inadequacy). Also, three non-members, namely Switzerland, Japan and US, were included for comparison. This research was to provide an understanding of how telecoms in the European Union (EU) have developed. There are two propositions in this part of the thesis: (i) privatisation and market liberalisation improve performance; (ii) countries that liberalised their telecoms sectors first show a better productivity growth than countries that liberalised later. In sum, a mixed picture is revealed. Some countries performed better than others over time, but there is no apparent relationship between productivity performance and the two propositions. Some of the results from this part of the thesis were published in Dabler et al. (2002). Secondly, the remainder of the tests the proposition that the telecoms directives of the European Commission created harmonised regulatory systems in the member states of the EU. By undertaking explanatory research, this thesis not only seeks to establish whether harmonisation has been achieved, but also tries to find an explanation as to why this is so. To accomplish this, as a first stage to questionnaire survey was administered to the fifteen telecoms regulators in the EU. The purpose of the survey was to provide knowledge of methods, rationales and approaches adopted by the regulatory offices across the EU. This allowed for the decision as to whether harmonisation in telecoms regulation has been achieved. Stemming from the results of the questionnaire analysis, follow-up case studies with four telecoms regulators were undertaken, in a second stage of this research. The objective of these case studies was to take into account the country-specific circumstances of telecoms regulation in the EU. To undertake the case studies, several sources of evidence were combined. More specifically, the annual Implementation Reports of the European Commission were reviewed, alongside the findings from the questionnaire. Then, interviews with senior members of staff in the four regulatory authorities were conducted. Finally, the evidence from the questionnaire survey and from the case studies was corroborated to provide an explanation as to why telecoms regulation in the EU has reached or has not reached a state of harmonisation. In addition to testing whether harmonisation has been achieved and why, this research has found evidence of different approaches to control over telecoms regulators and to market intervention administered by telecoms regulators within the EU. Regarding regulatory control, it was found that some member states have adopted mainly a proceduralist model, some have implemented more of a substantive model, and others have adopted a mix between both. Some findings from the second stage of the research were published in Dabler and Parker (2004). Similarly, regarding market intervention by regulatory authorities, different member states treat market intervention differently, namely according to market-driven or non-market-driven models, or a mix between both approaches.
Date of AwardNov 2003
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Parker (Supervisor)


  • telecommunications
  • regulation
  • European Union
  • European Commission
  • telecoms directives
  • harmonisation

Cite this