EU eyes €110bn e-Comms Single Market jackpot

The European Commission has released a study showing that, if the internal market for electronic communications were completed, the EU gross domestic product (GDP) could grow by up to €110 billion a year, or more than 0.8 per cent of GDP.

The EC sees e-Communications as a critical part of overall efforts to build a digital Single Market, and suggests the ‘digital bonus’ for EU growth would result from more competition, increased economies of scale for telecom operators, and the chance for every European to access all online content and services throughout the EU, such as music, movies and video games.

The commission suggests that new and more efficient economic activity could arise from the ability to subscribe to TV from your home country when living abroad, the possibility of receiving healthcare monitoring from your local physician while on holiday, or a business using a single Cloud computing provider for offices in many EU countries.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “We are wealthier and more competitive because of our Single Market. But it is not a true Single Market if the Internet and other telecoms are excluded. The digital Single Market is coffee for the economy, we’d be mad not to drink it.”

The study was carried out by an international team of experts and academics. It suggests three main types of policy measures to tackle obstacles:

  • reduced regulatory fragmentation (e.g. common rules on contract duration and transparency of bills);
  • more European standardisation (to allow pan-European services of assured quality to emerge in areas such as e-Health, e-Energy, e-Mobility);
  • the need for more coordination of the activities of national telecoms regulators at EU level.

Investigating the cost of non-Europe in the telecoms market is a key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe. The Commission will hold a public workshop in May to receive stakeholders’ suggestions on how to act on the issues raised in the study entitled ‘Steps towards a truly Internal Market for e-Communications’.

In particular, the study looks into the reasons why many European telecoms operators do not enter other European markets where retail prices remain higher than in their national markets. A number of factors are blamed for this:

  • firstly, the lack of EU standards (for example, it is difficult for telecom operators in one Member State to get the same wholesale access product in another Member State and thus offer telecommunications services across Europe);
  • secondly, differences in the implementation of the European regulatory framework (for example, consumers can now change telecom operator and retain the same number. However, the technology to carry out such a change may be different in every Member State);
  • thirdly, lack of coordination of national spectrum policies leading to different speeds of adopting 4G (high speed mobile broadband).

The EC suggests that the benefits of suggested action can be considerable. The study points to the fact that in the coming years demand for bandwidth will continue to increase. The drivers of growth will be online services such as movies and games (which will evolve from High Definition to technologies such as 3D, e-Health or e-Learning). These services require guaranteed quality of service. This requires pan-European standards, since what might work in one Member State may not be possible in another, advises the EC.

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