Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges (pictured) argued Europe was all but dead in terms of global relevance, slating a regulatory environment which hinders operator consolidation and does little to make large web companies pay a fair share towards connectivity costs.

In the second keynote at MWC23 this morning, Hoettges highlighted disparities between the European mobile market and its global counterparts, including a 5G coverage rate of 73 per cent compared with 96 per cent in the US and around 90 per cent in Asia Pacific.

Hoettges noted European operators pumped €55 billion into infrastructure alone in 2022 compared with €1 billion invested in connectivity by so-called hyperscalers.

“Is it a fair deal that hyperscalers and streamers are using our infrastructure for free? Shouldn’t there be a fair sharing between, let’s say this money which we are investing into the infrastructure and the one we are monetising?”

But Hoettges explained there is no point in operators “looking out of the window” instead of focusing on how they can help themselves.

He argued operators must “abandon the black boxes” of infrastructure by embracing open RAN, but also disaggregating their fixed-line networks.

Deutsche Telekom developed Access 4.0, a programme to “completely dismantle” its fixed-line infrastructure, which Hoettges said delivered productivity gains while lowering costs and energy consumption.

“The disaggregation of the black boxes is something which will help us big time to use capex more efficiently.”

Delivering connectivity is operators’ only real business model and, to make it work, Hoettges said European regulators must begin to allow more consolidation.

The Deutsche Telekom executive argued enabling operators to capitalise on their investments would bring broad benefits in terms of digitalisation and even for the environment, citing the lower power consumption of 5G networks relative to earlier generations.

And he called for action to bring “the masses into the luxury of the 5G system”, by making devices more affordable.