News Column

Telecoms Operators Call for Fresh, Progressive ICT Public Policy to Boost Economy

August 6, 2014

Adeyemi Adepetun



WHILE Europe faces an unprecedented economic crisis with member states of the union struggling to boost employment by means of complex economic policies, identifying a robust path to growth is undoubtedly the most important current policy goal.

To this end European firms need to vigorously compete in both the domestic and foreign markets and technological innovation is key and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry represents an essential pillar and opportunity for growth.

Indeed, the majority of the most radical technological innovations are in fact delivered by the ICT industry.

As such, at the recently held Digital Venice 2014, the GSMA and leading European telecoms operators presented a statement to Prime Minister of Italy and President of the Council of the European Union, Matteo Renzi, at a high-level roundtable organised with Vice-President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes and leading industry CEOs.

At the meeting, while the new Italian EU Presidency provides a sharpened focus on Europe's digital opportunity, the meeting called for a new ICT public policy that supports Europe in catching up with, and potentially overtaking, the other industrial regions in the ICT challenge, stimulating economic growth, job creation and improving social welfare throughout the region.

Some of the European telecoms operators CEOs at the meeting included; CEO, Deutsche Telekom AG, Timotheus HÖttges; Chairman and CEO, Orange, StÉphane Richard; CEO, Telecom Italia, Marco Patuano; Executive Chairman and CEO, TelefÓnica, CÉsar Alierta;

President and CEO, Telenor Group and Chairman, GSMA Board, Jon Fredrik Baksaas; CEO, Vodafone Group, Vittorio Colao.

According to the meeting, by providing fast, reliable, secure and intelligent connectivity the Communications Industry is an essential part of how every company in Europe, small or large, does business, adding that it can provide the foundations for a new wave of economic growth, job creation and improving social welfare in Europe.

Europe, historically a pioneer in the communications industry, is now lagging behind the US and Asia in the deployment of new communications infrastructure.

This gap, according to the meeting does not reflect a lack of willingness to invest, but reflects differences in policy frameworks and industry structures which in other regions have been, and continue to be, more conducive to the infrastructure investments needed to support the next wave of economic growth.

According to the CEOs, Europe needs a new digital agenda to catch up and possibly leapfrog the other industrial regions in the ICT challenge. The success of Europe in this technological competition will entail a powerful stimulus to economic growth and job creation.

To this end, a new ICT public policy is urgently required with the following main goals.

The CEOs agreed at the meeting that the EU should support the development of modern digital infrastructures by ensuring a simplified, digital-friendly, pro-investment regulatory framework ensuring a fair long-term return on investments in new infrastructure.

They called for a review of the European regulatory framework, which they see as the appropriate tool for addressing such an essential goal.

According to them, achieving the 2020 Digital Agenda targets requires both private and public investment.They noted that whilst operators are increasing investment levels across the EU there will inevitably be cases of market failure, stressing that these should be addressed by means of appropriate public funding to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide, but that private investments should not be crowded out by competition from public projects.

The meeting also called on the EU to support and promote the on-going reallocation of radio spectrum to the communications industry so that operators can continue to meet consumer and business needs for faster connection speeds and greater capacity. This process needs to be co-ordinated at the European level. Policies recently supported by the Commission and the Parliament concerning spectrum licencing provide the right answers to these issues.

According to them, there is also a need to ensure award processes are not structured to extract excessive payment for spectrum as this has a direct impact on the financial capacity to invest in infrastructure.

"The EU should support a new interpretation and application of Merger Regulation and Guidelines to reflect the rapidly changing environment, characterised by strong growth in data consumption and new sources of Internet-based competition. Consolidation in the European telecoms market, along with reasonable safeguard measures, can provide a boost to investment, support job creation and deliver innovative services without any adverse impact on competition.

"

The EU needs to support a level playing field of regulation between the Communications and Internet industries. The European Communications Industry needs greater freedom to compete on equal terms with the Internet industry. At the same time, Internet players should be subject to the same rules", they stated.


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Source: AllAfrica


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