Telia is fighting a legal battle linked to zero rating, but says outcome will have no impact on its business

Net neutrality does not have a significant impact on telecoms industry stakeholders in Europe, if discussion at the opening day of Total Telecom Congress is anything to go by.

"[Net neutrality is] a nice, but meaningless phrase," said Phillippa Biggs, coordinator of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development at the ITU.

Biggs’ issue is linked to the asymmetry of available information. She notes that while operators know how they are managing their networks at any given moment, the regulators have to carry out investigative work to get the same view.

Representatives from the operator and regulator sides largely agreed that net neutrality in Europe is something of a damp squib.

"It’s a competition remedy. I don’t know what the competition problem is that it’s a remedy to," said Brian Potterill, director of competition policy at U.K. regulator Ofcom.

Perhaps more surprisingly, comments on the irrelevance of net neutrality regulation were echoed by Telia Company, a telco that has itself fallen foul of net neutrality rules.

Telia is currently in court as a result of a net neutrality violation, admitted Michaela Angonius, head of group regulatory affairs at the telco. The company stands accused of having continued to allow zero-rated data services after customers have burned through their data allowance, she said.

"Not only us will end up in court," she said, because European net neutrality law is "so vaguely written."

As a result of the vagaries, the law actually has no real impact on telcos, Angonius said.

Telia has been allowed to continue services while the Swedish legal wrangling continues, and the process will likely be moved to European courts, thereby extending the time period involved, she explained.

"So regardless of the final outcome, it’s not going to have an impact," she said. Telia will have already gained a commercial advantage over its competitors by that stage, and the battleground will be elsewhere.