The standardisation process is one of the key ways to ensure that Europe stays ahead in the global race for new technologies, like 5G and IoT. We spoke to MEP Marlene Mizzi to find out what the biggest challenges and opportunities are in improving the European standardisation system.

MEP Marlene Mizzi

In what capacity did you work on the topic of standardisation?

I was the rapporteur on the Report on Standards for the 21st Century in the European Parliament's Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO). The objectives of my report were to contribute to the ongoing debate and to set the European Parliament’s priorities in response to the Commission Standardisation Package, the Joint Initiative on Standardisation and the ICT Communication. The report also aimed to contribute to the first Inter-institutional Dialogue on standards and to the Annual Work Standardisation Programme.

In your view, what is the value of standards for mobile communications?

Standards really matter and are important for our society. They are a necessary component of all sectors, and of mobile communications in particular. They can play a key role in improving the health and safety of European citizens. Standards also provide a mechanism to protect consumers and raise their confidence, guaranteeing safer and more secure products and services. They can also reduce costs, enhance business performance, increase sales and the uptake of new technologies, and boost competitiveness and innovation for European companies.

How do consumers benefit from an open, inclusive and transparent standardisation system?

I cannot imagine a world without standards, which guarantee that products or services are fit for purpose and safeguard high quality and safety for consumers! Without common standards, products and services will not work smoothly and reliably together.

However, standards in the mobile communications sector are not only about interoperability or safety requirements. They are also an actual cutting edge technology themselves. Just imagine how much our lives have changed with the introduction of 3G and 4G and how mobile technologies and all industries around them have improved and developed in the last five years.

How can open standardisation help innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe?

The European standardisation system plays a key role in the delivery of the Single Market. Recent regulations have brought many improvements to the standardisation process by integrating SMEs for the first time.

Standards can reduce costs and enhance performance of small businesses, increase sales, and encourage new technologies by boosting competitiveness and innovation in Europe. They can open up markets and develop economies of scale ensuring that companies, especially SMEs and micro enterprises, can compete on equal footing in the global markets. They provide a solid foundation upon which companies can develop new technologies and enhance existing practices.

The most successful standards are the ones that have broad support and involvement of all stakeholders, including SMEs. A standard fit for the 21st century needs to be a standard that protects all stakeholders, taking into account their vulnerabilities and addressing future challenges and create an inclusive, transparent and open standardisation system. This is why it’s so important that the opinions of SMEs are also taken into account when developing standards.

How can standards help keep Europe ahead in the race for new technologies, like 5G and IoT?

It is crucial to promote and support European standards and the European standardisation system at a global level. We live in a world that needs global standards, but we shouldn’t underestimate the regional importance and particularities of Europe and its Member States, especially when certain standards are going to impact European consumers or the interests of European SMEs.

Standardisation is one way to ensure that Europe will stay ahead in the global race for new technologies. Therefore, Europe needs to pay more attention to interoperability and ICT standards at the global level, recognising that each play a key role in the future digital transformation of the European economy.

It is important to maintain Europe in a leadership position in the technical development of standards and to promote Europe as a hub for global standardisation. European standards, adopted at a global level, will not only boost competitiveness of our companies and businesses, but will also ensure that the high level of consumer, environmental and social protection that has been achieved in Europe is safeguarded worldwide.

How can deployment of technologies based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms benefit European business and society?

My report recognises that a robust, fair and reasonable IPR policy will encourage investment and innovation and facilitate the uptake of the Digital Single Market and of new technologies, particularly 5G and IoT devices, as they rely heavily on standardisation.

It is essential to maintain a balanced and open standardisation framework and efficient licensing practices for standard-essential patents (SEPs) based on the FRAND methodology addressing the legitimate concerns of both licensors and licensees, while ensuring that the standardisation process offers a level playing field where different stakeholders of all sizes, including SMEs, can collaborate in a mutually beneficial manner.

What was for you (personally) the biggest takeaway from working as European Parliament rapporteur on such a critical file for European innovators?

My biggest challenge was to achieve balanced report that represents the views of all the different stakeholders. For me standards are not only an essential tool for the operation of the Single Market, but also a tool for developing a modern and healthy society. Therefore, I have tried to better understand stakeholder needs and prioritise areas with the most significant impacts on consumers. I really believe that we have achieved this goal - a belief that is supported by the overwhelming vote in favour in Parliament. My ultimate aim was to do things right and to propose recommendations that will benefit European innovators, consumers, workers and businesses. Last but not least, I hope that the Commission, the European standardisation organisations and Member States will implement and enforce its recommendations.