Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm (pictured) warned Europe may not develop any leading industries if policymakers keep prioritising regulation over innovation, arguing the fragmented telecoms market is holding the continent back from unlocking new digital services and the economies around it.

Speaking at a seminar hosted by the Nordic Investment Bank, Ekholm expressed concerns about how European CSPs are “disadvantaged in competitive scale” against competitors in the US, China and India, as he noted the majority of providers in the former continent are not making enough returns “to cover their cost of capital”.

Ekholm believes a welcoming attitude towards embracing digitalisation helped China and US tap into 4G capabilities, in turn creating new companies that have now made it to the world’s top 500 organisations by revenue, a category under which European representation “has diminished”.

To his point, he noted the European Union (EU) has attracted just 4 per cent of funding for AI to date, compared to 80 per cent for the other two countries.

Continuing down this path could see Europe “relegated to a museum with great art but no leading industries, lacking in digital technology, innovation and industrial leadership on the global stage”, he warned.

Ekholm also added the average number of subscribers per operator in Europe is 4.4 million compared to 95 million in US, 300 million in India and 400 million in China, as he pressed for an in-market consolidation.

“Building out ubiquitous, high performance, digital infrastructure is the key to Europe’s future competitiveness, technology leadership and decarbonisation ambitions. European policy makers have an essential role in making this possible.”

Mobile association GSMA recently issued a manifesto outlining similar concerns.