25 March, 2021

Connectivity and Beyond: How Telcos Can Accelerate a Digital Future For All


Europe can create 2.4 million new jobs by leveraging a €300bn digital network investment

Brussels, 25 March 2021 – Europe can create 2.4 million new jobs within the next four years through digital transformation, while boosting economic growth and accelerating green transformation. This will require a €300bn effort in terms of telecoms network investment, with additional action required to stimulate demand and digital upskilling. These are the key findings of the new reportConnectivity and Beyond: How Telcos Can Accelerate a Digital Future For All”, which was released today by Europe’s leading telecoms association ETNO and prepared by global management consulting firm BCG.

The release comes as EU Heads of State and Government gather for the European Council to discuss, among others, the future of Europe’s industrial and digital policy.

Europe’s digital opportunity: New jobs, a GDP boost and green transformation

BCG analysis finds that 5G alone can generate an annual increase of €113bn in GDP and 2.4 million new jobs in Europe by 2025. As the EU strives to reignite the economy with the Recovery Plan, building gigabit networks and innovative digital services can help increasing productivity and generating a smarter way of working.

BCG finds that a widespread uptake of digital solutions can also reduce carbon emissions by up to 15%. Key enablers include 30% emission cuts thanks to smart cities and 30% emission cuts through digital transformation in the transports sector.

A need for more investment: €300bn still missing for networks, €40bn/year for schools and SMEs

In order to achieve the opportunity, Europe must dramatically ramp up its network investment capacity to achieve gigabit speeds across territories and ensure full digital inclusion. BCG estimates €150bn is still needed to achieve a full-5G scenario in Europe, while an additional €150bn is required to finish upgrading fixed infrastructure to gigabit speeds.

However, increased investment is also much needed on the demand side, with 83% of EU SMEs still not using advanced cloud and 60% of 9 year-olds currently educated in schools that are not digitally equipped. BCG estimates that upgrading the digital infrastructure of all European schools would require €14bn/year, which corresponds to 1.8% of the Next Generation EU fund. Similarly, digitalizing all European SMEs would require €26bn/year, or 3.5% of the Next Generation EU fund.

Telecom solutions: collaboration for intelligent networks, cloud and innovative services

BCG analysis finds that the European telecoms sector is accelerating its transformation in 7 main areas: network leadership, new collaboration models, next B2B generation, data-driven customer approach, up-stack innovations, radical simplification, and new ways of working.

This is leading to cutting-edge innovation in fields like cloud, edge-cloud, data-based services, e-ID as well as OpenRAN – to name just a few. Collaboration within the industry and across European industrial sectors emerges as the defining feature of this new phase. Europeans citizens and businesses can expect fresh opportunities for socio-economic growth empowered by digital services designed around European values.

European policies: executing on an ambitious industrial vision

The EU’s overarching digital strategies set the right ambition for digital leadership at the global level. However, the spirit of Europe’s political goals must now permeate policy and regulatory action at both the European and national level. The report details a series of urgent policy actions, including: strongly increasing the attractiveness of investment in roll-out; allowing for more industry collaboration and scale in the sector; strongly stimulating demand and digital transformation across industrial sectors; prioritizing leadership in European digital services; and ambitious investment in digital skills.

Lise Fuhr, ETNO Director General, said: “This Report shows that Europe’s gigabit opportunity is extremely relevant to today’s top challenges, including recovery and the green transition. We call on European leaders to support the telecoms sector and help us deliver a stronger digital economy for all citizens”.

Wolfgang Bock, Managing Director and Senior Partner at BCG , said: “The Covid pandemic has reinforced how reliant we are on our telecoms infrastructure for virtually every aspect of our work, education and social lives. We need to learn and apply that lesson to ensure Europe makes the necessary investments to be able to remain competitive. Today, 83% of EU SMEs do not use advanced cloud services and over 60% nine-years-olds are in schools which are still not digitally equipped. Our report maps a route for Europe to build a more digitally skilled workforce and create millions of jobs”.


For media inquiries

ETNO, Alessandro Gropelli – gropelli@etno.eu

BCG, Brian Bannister – bannister.brian@bcg.com

About ETNO

ETNO is the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association and it represent Europe’s main telecom operators, who innovate and invest in the continent's digital backbone. ETNO companies are the providers of Europe's most advanced digital networks and services. ETNO's mission is to develop a positive policy and regulatory environment empowering the delivery of world-class services for European citizens and businesses | www.etno.eu | @ETNOAssociation

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we help clients with total transformation—inspiring complex change, enabling organizations to grow, building competitive advantage, and driving bottom-line impact.

To succeed, organizations must blend digital and human capabilities. Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives to spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting along with technology and design, corporate and digital ventures—and business purpose. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, generating results that allow our clients to thrive.

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Alessandro Gropelli
Deputy Director General - Strategy & Communications

Alessandro Gropelli is Deputy Director General of ETNO, the European Telecoms Association, as well as a Board member and Treasurer of GeSI, the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative. At ETNO, Ales

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gropelli@etno.eu +32 (0)476 94 18 39
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