Telecom Italia CEO Pietro Labriola (pictured) urged a relaxation of rules imposed on operators in Europe, joining the growing list of mobile chiefs speaking at MWC23 Barcelona to portray a tough economic situation on the continent.

During his keynote yesterday, Labriola called for the creation of a level playing field with digital providers and more openness to consolidation, while airing grievances about an industry requirement to switch off legacy systems.

“We must change the approach of institutions to allow market consolidation. This is the only way to have a future,” he said, pointing to the number of major markets around the world with only three operators per country compared with the more crowded landscape in many countries in Europe.

Another area targeted by the executive were requirements in place for operators, especially incumbents, which are hampering progress, highlighting the requirement to “switch off old technology”.

“We are talking about metaverse but in Italy we have 40,000 payphones I cannot switch off. I have to pay for universal services. You talk to me about the metaverse when I’m still waiting to be repaid about €50 million for the payphone,” he added pointing to the large interest rate monies owed are subject to.

However, he acknowledged these types of issues and disparities between rules for them and digital players were nothing new, calling it the “speech of the telco player for the ten years”.

He noted in the current critical situation in Europe, there is a need not to procrastinate with “brave and bold solutions that look to the future…inaction is not an option, it’s time for more than words we need facts and bold decisions. It’s time to be brave”.