October 23, 2017
Electronic Communication Code: urgent action needed to advance European digital ambitions as we enter the 5G era
As you are no doubt aware, European citizens and businesses rely on mobile networks to socialise, do business and access information everyday in every corner of every Member State of the Union. The social and economic activity that rides over this digital infrastructure drives economic growth, shapes future innovation and fosters more inclusive societies. As you prepare to convene at tomorrow’s Ministerial Council Meeting, I must express my grave concerns on the current state of discussions on the proposed European Electronic Communication Code (the Code).
Although the European Union’s vision of a ‘Gigabit Society’, and recent discussions amongst the European Heads of State, demonstrate a strong ambition to recapture the region’s digital leadership and harness the full power of digital to drive growth, jobs and competitiveness, we do not see action focused on delivering tangible results.
The GSMA forecasts that more than one-third of Europe’s mobile connections could be running on 5G networks by 2025, providing citizens and businesses access to widespread ultra-fast connectivity. This encouraging projection, however, is not a given. Europe’s leadership in the 5G era will strongly depend on reforming telecoms regulation to foster investment and innovation. The Code represents a unique opportunity to move away from long antiquated views of the digital market, and finally set out a forward-looking policy that will enable the European Union to again be seen as a centre of technological innovation.
Spectrum is the lifeblood of mobile networks. It is therefore essential that EU institutions reform Europe’s spectrum management, acting on the following considerations to ensure the long-term viability of 5G and the Gigabit Society:
- More certainty and predictability for spectrum licenses, including a minimum licence duration of 25 years with a strong presumption of renewal, a proven way to attract more on-going investment in next generation infrastructure
- An efficient peer-review mechanism to spur the sharing of best practice in the areas of spectrum award design and procedures
- Voluntary spectrum sharing to enable competition, innovation and differentiation for the benefit of European citizens
- Fee structures that move away from short-sighted revenue generation to ones that are reflective of efficient and effective use of spectrum as well as coverage commitments
We recognise the sovereign interest of Member States over the spectrum resource. However, now is the time for bold action to reform spectrum management if Europe has any hope of regaining a leadership position in digital technologies. Sticking with the status quo will keep Europe fragmented, ensuring that we will fall behind other regions and fail to achieve a truly Digital Single Market. I encourage all of us to leverage our heritage as a mobile pioneer with GSM to make the kind of step change needed to incentivise connectivity investment, promoting the roll out of advanced mobile solutions across industries and public services. To be clear, this is about much more than just making the business environment for mobile operators sustainable. This is about what is essential to the long-term societal and economics needs of Europe.
Now that the negotiations on the Code are moving to the final stage, I urge all European institutions to maintain pressure to reform the telecom framework and, critically, to rigorously assess specific measures in the Code against Europe’s political objectives and digital ambitions. While there may be other portfolios that garner more public attention, I would humbly argue that there are few more critical to the social and economic future of Europe, its citizens and industries.
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