The UK is expected to drop its opposition to automatic pre-selection of long distance telecomms carriers by subscribers.
A proposed EU directive on telephone number portability and carrier pre-selection will be discussed by telecomms ministers at the start of December, diplomats said.
The ministers are expected to agree a common position on the directive, which is seen as an important way of promoting competition between operators, but still have to agree the detailed timetable for introducing number portability and carrier selection, they said.
"The chances of the UK getting an exemption [from automatic carrier pre-selection measures] are zero. It is not politically viable that the most liberal market should be exempt from a measure that on the surface is a liberalisation measure," one diplomat said.
The UK has opposed automatic carrier pre-selection by subscribers because it is keen to see investment and competition in the local loop. The Cambridge-based Ionica is offering wireless local loop. Other member states are mostly relying on dominant operator interconnection.
However, diplomats said the requirement on member states to introduce automatic pre-selection for subscribers will only apply at first to dominant operators and not to new entrants or cable TV firms.
The Commission has proposed that automatic carrier pre-selection should be available from 1 January 2000, with call-by-call long distance carrier selection starting as early as 1 January 1998. The Commission wants number portability between operators from the same date.
Diplomats said some member states have argued for faster introduction of these facilities while others, including those countries that do not liberalise at the start of next year, want an extension to take account of their lack of digital and other technical capabilities in networks.
Ministers will also discuss an Ecu15 million programme to stimulate the information society. But Germany could block the spending, as well as Commission proposals on electronic signatures, third generation mobile services, and the latest state of play in transposing directives, EC sources said.
The Commission's green paper on the convergence of telecomms and broadcasting technologies may be on the agenda if it can be presented in time. One EC source said it may propose common regulation of networks but not of content, where online and offline rules would be similar.
Competition commissioner Karel Van Miert is not expected to discuss his plans to seek a separation by dominant telecomms operators of their cable TV activities from their fixed telecomms networks and the Commission may not be ready until next year to propose its competition directive on this issue, sources said.
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