16 May, 2014

A new agenda to enable growth for Europe’s digital citizens

ETNO Open Letter to the candidates for the European Commission Presidency

Dear Jean-Claude Juncker,

Dear Ska Keller,

Dear Martin Schulz,

Dear Alexis Tsipras,

Dear Guy Verhofstadt,

ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s major telecoms operators, welcomes the presence of digital policies among the priorities included in the programmes for the next term. We strongly believe that sound digital policies should be top of the list of policy actions that you will undertake as a future President of the European Commission.

The reason is simple. We are convinced that digital is the new goldmine for both our society and economy: several studies have demonstrated how in recent years,  the deployment of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have had a positive impact on GDP growth and, at the same time, have positively impacted society.

In an ETNO commissioned report of 2013, the Boston Consulting Group determined that a reform leading to a real Digital Single Market can unlock an additional €750bn in GDP growth and generate as many as 5.5 million jobs across the EU. This is consistent with a similar study of Ericsson, stating that doubling the broadband speed for an economy can increase GDP growth by 0.3% on average in OECD economies.

The potential gain being so high, why has the EU been unable to achieve success so far? ETNO believes that part of the problem stems from an outdated approach to policy and regulation. Technological innovation moves fast and so do digital markets, where disruption happens at an ever increasing pace.

In this scenario, citizens have also changed their habits, preferences and needs. In today’s society, we can identify many “digital citizens” whose daily routine is characterised – and empowered – by ubiquitous connectivity.

In 2009, there were roughly 950 million social network users in the world. Estimates for 2015 suggest that this figure will double to 2 billion users worldwide. Europeans today use their fixed or mobile devices to do things as different as checking their bank accounts, improving their health or creating innovative businesses online and offline. In this context, digital citizens have also transformed into data-hungry individuals and content-enthusiasts. Ericsson has calculated that the mobile data traffic will grow from almost zero Exabytes in 2010 to 4 Exabytes in 2014. The main responsible of this growth is video, which is already today the largest segment of data traffic in mobile networks.

The exciting and thriving internet ecosystem described by these numbers brings new opportunities and new challenges. The evolution of the digital citizen’s profile also has an impact on how our networks are used.

Networks are the irreplaceable backbone of the entire Internet ecosystem. They are also the transformative tool that enables development and prosperity for local communities, businesses, households, and governments. For this reason, ETNO asks for a step change in EU digital policies: enable us to enable growth. This is our main ask.

For this to happen, we need a new development strategy for telecoms markets, starting from the assumption that a long term industry evolution roadmap is needed and that it should take stock of the changes that have occurred in the markets.

In this framework, a thorough revision of the current electronic communications regulatory framework should acknowledge the vital role of the development of ultra-high speed fixed networks, via more investment friendly and up-to-date telecoms rules. We believe that the EU also has a big political choice to take when thinking of how these rules should evolve: either we allow European players to become stronger at home – and therefore relevant on the global stage – or we let non-EU companies shop for shrinking European telcos.

For these reasons, the EU also needs a new Digital Agenda to leverage digital markets in 4 main ways:

        1. Aim to recapture European leadership in mobile.

2. Build an Open Innovation model, where interoperability and portability help us unlock new opportunities for citizens in a world often too dominated by closed operating systems.

3. Stimulate demand in a holistic way, recognising that a smarter society is also built upon smarter cities, smarter cars, smarter homes and a truly digital public administration.

4. Put European citizens back in control of their own personal data and ensure online security, while unlocking access to the big data opportunity for European businesses.

There is no simple solution to strengthen growth and competitiveness. However, we believe that growth and development opportunities could be easily unlocked as from now. This can be done by shaping the future Digital Agenda through a shared process. One in which all stakeholders are called not only to put forward their own priorities, but rather to challenge the status-quo and aim at a more ambitious scenario from which everybody can gain. We are ready to work with all stakeholders to help build the digital future.

Luigi Gambardella              

Executive Board Chairman            


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