Kroes outlines telecoms single market reform

NeelieKroesSpeaking at the EU parliament in Brussels, EU digital commissioner Neelie Kroes has 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 commented. “Broadband could create two million jobs. This is investing in tomorrow’s growth.”

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,” she said. “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’ solution is to make it simple as possinle for operators 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.

Once again, Kroes called for the abolition of “artificial” roaming charges. “It’s irritating, it’s unfair, it belongs to the past,” she insisted.

And without a single market, Kroes maintained that it’s far more taxing for manufacturers to optimise their new gadgets for Europe, and harder for business to benefit from single-market economies of scale.

Kroes 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.”

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