NMHH: 3+1 changes in Hungarian infocommunications regulations effective as of 1 July

Blue number, e-signature and broadband service regulations to be revamped

Published: 29 June 2016

After two decades, we bid farewell to blue numbers; after 15 years, new regulations will be implemented in the market of electronic signatures; infocommunications market rapid reports can resume with legislative guarantee; broadband networks may be installed using public utilities infrastructure – these are the key legislative changes on infocommunications becoming effective as of 1 July. Being in the middle of the summer, let's not forget about reasonable roaming use, either.

1. Blue numbers are gradually disappearing: existing blue numbers are being converted to green numbers.

As of 1 July, existing blue numbers may be used as toll-free green numbers until the end of the year. Applications for new blue numbers have not been accepted since mid-January and the licences issued for existing ones will be permanently revoked after the tariff change by the Authority effective of 31 December 2017. After 30 June this year, short numbers of the 14cd(e) type will become green (toll-free) numbers. Previously, these four or five digit numbers with the prefix 14 were either blue or green tariff numbers. The transition period will be sufficient for current users of blue numbers, typically companies providing telephone customer services, to implement other means of communication and for callers to get used to these changes.

By issuing and implementing in two stages NMHH Decree no. 1/2016 (I.15.), the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) ordered the termination of the SHS=40 number range, i.e. blue number service, in Hungary due to increasing customer complaints regarding the call tariffs of blue numbers. Blue numbers were introduced in 1997 to enable customers, most of whom used landline telephone service at the time, to call those numbers at local tariffs from anywhere in the country. The tariff difference between the long distance and the local call was charged to the called party. With the spread of mobile phones, the concept of local call was no longer practical and service providers began to charge various tariffs, which often resulted in higher rates for blue numbers than any other domestic call. With that, the very essence of the service, i.e. discounted rate, was lost, so NMHH decided to discontinue the use of blue numbers.

2. Changes in the e-signature market: website certificates are also being regulated

After a decade and a half, the market of e-signatures and the related e-services will now be regulated on a brand new basis: as of 1 July both the EU regulation and the new Hungarian legislation will go into effect. In all member states, this field will be primarily regulated by Regulation (EU) No 910/2014, whose application will be mandatory and direct. The Hungarian Act XXXV of 2001 on Electronic Signatures will be replaced by Act CCXXII of 2015 on the General Rules for Electronic Administration and Trust Services, which will provide another half-year for those providing service related to already registered e-signatures. Those listed by NMHH as registered service providers on 30 June 2016 and not reporting new trust services will be entitled to provide their services until the end of the year.

The EU regulation is introducing the concept of trust services. In addition to the existing e-signature related services, these include electronic registered delivery services, certificate services for website authorisation and electronic seals. By revising the concept of trust services, the EU regulation creates a single market for these services, as well as uniform application of the law and regulatory rules. The new Hungarian legislation also stipulates that NMHH will keep the "list of trust services" of the member state required to maintain and submit to the EU under the EU regulation, and will also supervise these services. The aggregate results of such lists will enable the EU to determine the current status of trust services all over Europe and also to determine if a specific trust service is qualified or not. The act also identifies the responsibilities of service providers with regards to security violations and their reports. Updating of the regulation was timely because e-services, e.g. the e-signature available for the new personal ID card since January this year, are being more extensively used in Hungary. The new act can improve service security and enforcement of user rights.

E-signature and its regulation satisfied the increased need for secure electronic statements with legal effect, e.g. contract bids, bid acceptance, performance certificate, so that the parties thereby connected can authenticate the author of a specific message and verify that the content of the message has not changed since its posting. E-services are currently provided by five organisations in Hungary. In addition to certifying e-signatures, these services also include time stamping and electronic archiving. Last year close to 6,000 signature creating devices were sold and the number of clients with contracts for e-signature certification was close to 25,000. In addition, 62 different e-signature products are certified by one of the two Hungarian certification organisations. Certified electronic signature products are registered by the Authority.

3. Guaranteed, regular infocommunications market data – new incentive for broadband development

Instead of the voluntary and ad hoc data supply incorporated in Act C of 2003 on Electronic Communications, the new legislation effective of 1 July will enable, based on legislative guarantees protecting service providers, the Authority to request infocommunications market data from service providers for the purpose of performing its other, non-regulatory tasks stipulated by the law. As a result, NMHH once again can publish its infocommunications market rapid reports on the mobile voice and mobile Internet markets (supply of such data had been suspended for a while prior to the legislative amendment due to lack of data), on the landline voice and Internet markets and the broadcasting market. Instead of the previous monthly publications, NMHH is planning to release quarterly or semi-annual reports but with a more extensive market overview. The new rapid reports will be introduced by NMHH gradually, starting with the mobile markets. Depending on the turnaround time of data requests sent to operators, the first report is scheduled for release in Q4 2016 the earliest.

The act was also amended to harmonise with an EU directive (Directive 2014/61 EU), which facilitates the installation of broadband services on public utilities infrastructure. Consequently, as of 1 July, all public utility companies are required to provide access to its broadband-ready passive infrastructure to facilitate the installation of broadband networks. This regulations facilitates, accelerates and reduces the costs of installation of broadband networks and enables the provisioning of broadband services in areas where it was previously not profitable or feasible. Taking advantage of this opportunity, however, also depends on the activity and willingness to cooperate of the infocommunications and public utilities providers. The supervisory organisation of this field is NMHH; therefore, the Authority will make decisions in any legal disputes between the parties.

+ 1. Reasonable roaming use

Although effective not as of 1 July but 30 April, another change pertaining to the summer period is more favourable roaming rates. This is good news especially because data published by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office indicate that the volume of international calls increased by 31 percent in the first quarter and this trend is likely to continue. NMHH also informs consumers about changing roaming tariffs in an animation film currently registering over 36,000 viewers. According to the new regulation, a maximum of net 5 euro cent roaming charge per 1 minute voice call made and per 1 MB of data traffic sent may be applied in addition to the unit prices for domestic calls within or outside the operator's network; this surcharge is net 1.14 euro cent per minute for receiving calls and net 2 euro cent per text message. The combined total of the domestic, out-of-network and roaming charges may not exceed the old rates, which is gross HUF 72.86 per minute for making calls, gross HUF 19.17 per minute for receiving calls (this is free of charge in Hungary), gross HUF 23.01 for sending a text message and HUF 76.69 per MB of data sent. For more information, visit the previous publications of NMHH: