Speaking at the European parliament in Brussels today (9 July), Neelie Kroes, EU digital commissioner, claimed that having a competitive single EU telecoms market could boost the region’s economy by €110 billion a year.
“Quality communications for business could be worth €800 billion over 15 years,” she added. “Broadband could create two million jobs. This is investing in tomorrow’s growth.”
Repeating many of the points she made in a recent speech, Kroes reminded her audience that Europe’s telecoms and ICT sectors are not as competitive as they once were, hampered as they are by border checkpoints.
“The rest of the world is racing ahead,” said the EU digital chief. “America, Japan, Korea have 88 per cent of the world’s 4G subscriptions; the EU has just 6 per cent. Meanwhile, only 2 per cent of European homes have superfast broadband.”
Kroes’ remedy is to make it straightforward for operators – perhaps using a single authorisation system with supervision by their home member state – to offer their services anywhere in the EU.
“Less red tape, less cost, less hassle: that’s what a single market means,” said Kroes. “That’s the boost they already have in sectors from banking to broadcasting: now, for telecoms too.”
Kroes called for “better spectrum rules” with consistent licence conditions, such as how long licences last, spectrum block sizes and fee structures. “All those things will make it easier to run a network over multiple countries – and easier to enjoy high quality services over them,” she said.
Not surprisingly, she called again for the abolition of “artificial” roaming charges. “It’s irritating, it’s unfair, it belongs to the past,” insisted Kroes.
And without a single market, Kroes maintained that it’s harder for manufacturers to optimise their new gadgets for Europe, and harder for business to benefit from single-market economies of scale.
“Uncertainties and costs faced by operators are passed on to consumers, meaning higher prices and poorer service,” she said. “European manufacturers, which once led the world, today struggle to compete.”
She stressed that the whole economy is relying on digital tools and networks – from the banking sector to logistics, from automotive to audiovisual – as well as all kinds of companies “crying out for the connectivity that could transform their business”.
“We cannot leave them stranded,” Kroes said. “In an economy relying on information and communication, we cannot sit by while the telecoms sector becomes too weak to compete, invest and innovate. We cannot continue to struggle by with poor, ageing networks.”
Kroes’ speech today outlined the main elements of what she will propose in her “Telecommunications Single Market: A Connected Continent” package that will go to the College of European Commissioners in early September.