Greece

Author: | Published: 2 Feb 2000
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By Manos G seissoglu of Karatzas & Perakis, Athens

The first step was to adopt the relevant legislation implementing the EU legislation which ensures a competitive market. The second step, being the most important and difficult one, is the equal treatment by the state authorities and the state-owned telecoms operator Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) of all participants and new entrants in the telecommunication sector.

The Greek state after a long and tiring process is near the point of full liberalization of its telecoms legislation in line with EU legislation. In addition, after December 31 2000, the state-owned OTE (the state recently reduced to 51% its shareholding participation in OTE ) will lose its exclusive right to install, operate and exploit the public switched telecoms network in Greece and its exclusive right to provide public switched voice telephony, a right which was reserved to the Greek state and OTE by an extension granted by Commission's decision 97/607 dated June 18 1997.

Regulatory Framework
Telecommunication Law

Law 2246/1994, as amended, (the Law on Telecommunications) read in conjuction with presidential decrees harmonizing Greek legislation with EU legislation and Ministerial Decisions implementing the provisions of the above law and the presidential decrees, constitute the framework within which the telecommunication entities operate. Law 2246/1994 is currently under review and an amended codified law is expected to enter into force in the near future.

The Ministry

According to the Law on Telecommunications, the Ministry of Transport and Communication has the overall supervision of every telecommunication activity and is also empowered to regulate and more specifically propose specific legislative proposals and issue ministerial decisions with respect to telecommunications.

The NTPC

The National Telecommunications and Postal Commission (NTPC) is the independent authority established by the Law on Telecommunications empowered to monitor compliance of the operators with telecoms laws and regulations as well with the terms and conditions of their licences and in this respect may also ask for justifications/clarifications. The NTPC is also empowered to impose fines for infringement of the telecommunication legislation and the terms of the licences of the operators. Operators may also bring before the NTPC disputes deriving from the provision of telecom services.

Licensing

The provision of telecom services is licensed either by the MTC or is carried out according to a declaration filed by the operator and approved by the NTPC.

Recent legislative measures for harmonization with EU legislation

The Greek state has enacted during the previous year the following national legislation for harmonizing Greek law with EU legislation: Interconnection: Presidential Decree 165/1999 harmonized Greek law with the Interconnection Directive 97/33 EC into Greek law. Issues arise from the fact that OTE has not yet an accounting system for determination of its costs for the interconnection services in compliance with EU law. A significant consequence of the harmonization is also that mobile operators in Greece do not have to route their international calls from OTE's network.

Licensing: Presidential Decree 157/1999 harmonized Greek law with the Licensing Directive 97/13.

Leased lines: Presidential Decree 156/1999 harmonized fully Greek law with EU directives 97/51 which amended directives 92/44 and 90/387.

Open network provision: Presidential Decree 181/1999 harmonized Greek law with directive 98/10 with respect to open network provision to voice telephony and for the universal service for telecoms in a competitive environment.

Despite the adoption during the past year of legislation for the implementation of EU legislation, the Greek state is still subject to a number of infringement proceedings by the Commission for failure of timely implementation of the EU legislation.

Exclusive rights of OTE

OTE has the following exclusive rights:

  • to install, operate and exploit the public switched telecoms network in Greece and to provide public switched voice telephony until December 31 2000;
  • to provide coastal communications and maritime mobile telephony services, to install, operate and exploit independent local radio networks with fixed point-to-point links for use by private entities, excluding local temporary radio links servicing radio or television needs.
Mobile Telephony

Three licences have been awarded to Stet Hellas, Panafon and Cosmote (a subsidiary of OTE). Stet Hellas and Panafon currently operate under licences on the GSM 900 while Cosmote on DCS 1800. Recently it has been announced that the MTC has agreed with the mobile operators to extend the licences of Panafon and Stet to the DCS 1800 and the licence of Cosmote to GSM 900.

The mobile market in Greece has developed with a pace from 1993, the year of its introduction. Panafon is the market leader while Cosmote, which started commercial operations only on 1998, follows. By virtue of national legislation harmonizing Greek law with the Interconnection Directive 97/33, mobile operators are no longer obliged to route their international calls from the network of OTE.

Other entrants/Competition/Recent Developments

A number of independent service providers are already active in the provision of liberalized telecomn services such as data relay, internet access and closed user group voice telephony. After the abolition of the exclusive rights of OTE for voice telephony and for the development of the infrastructure, competition will be fully implemented in Greece. The regulatory framework is almost at place although not yet fully tested in practice.

The prospects of the Greek telecoms market are positive. The majority of the new entrants await its full liberalization. It is evident from other jurisdictions that competition and full liberalization will benefit the consumers and will have as a necessary consequence the reorganization of the market. In this reorganization OTE will face severe competition. The Greek state has attempted to transform OTE from a bureaucratic organization to a flexile societe anonyme capable of adopting to the changes of the market. In this respect the Greek State offered through various offerings shares of OTE and decreased its shareholding participation in OTE to 51%.

Contact Details:

Karatzas & Perakis

6 Omirou Street

Athens 10564

Greece

Tel: +30 1 322 9141

Fax: +30 1 323 4363