19 February, 2020

EU telcos welcome the European Commission approach to digital leadership, stress the role of 5G and fibre networks

Brussels, 19 February 2020 – ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading telecom companies, welcomes the fresh approach to digital leadership enshrined in the “Shaping Europe’s digital future” Strategy, in the “Communication on a European Data Strategy” and in the “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence”, which were unveiled today by the European Commission.

5G, fibre and digital services will play a major role

Reports show that secure 5G and fibre networks will underpin digital services and play a major role both in delivering increased socio-economic growth and in making significant progress on sustainability. We therefore call for unequivocal policy support for private network investment and telecom service innovation, as major enablers of the whole digital Strategy. The road towards achieving pan European 5G and ensuring widespread fibre access is still long and it requires a major investment leap. For this reason, decisive measures on broadband cost reduction, continued 5G policy focus and a bold European spectrum policy are all of essence. In this context, we also call for supporting digital transformation and 5G roll-out by allowing flexibility for market players who decide to enter in voluntary network sharing agreements.

Data Strategy, competition issues: we must support European innovation

ETNO shares the ambition of achieving European leadership in the data economy and in Artificial Intelligence. The Data Strategy reflects the need for increased European investment and innovation in the field of data. While regulation has a role to play, investment into technology, capabilities and skills will be the most impactful tool for Europe to succeed in the data economy. Contractual voluntary sharing of non-personal data in B2B and B2G relationships remains a pillar of the data economy, but it needs to be further incentivized by reducing barriers, such as lack of standardisation and interoperability. We also endorse the need of reviewing competition law in light of the new positions of dominance and lack of contestability in the data economy. When this proves insufficient, we would support targeted ex-ante regulatory measures for cases of structural and systemic failure related to hyper-scalers.

When it comes to digital platforms and competition, we believe that they contribute huge innovation and value, but their hyper-scale and role may require a new regulatory approach. This should both ensure innovation and protect consumers and European businesses from unfair practices. We therefore welcome the Commission’s efforts to examine contestability: it is important to consider systemic problems in digital markets, including a thorough assessment of options for ex-ante regulation of online gate-keeping platforms with significant network effects.

Artificial Intelligence: ethics and data should both stay in focus

The “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence” is in continuity with the “Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI”, which were endorsed by ETNO in 2019. In this context, we welcome the continued focus on ethics and European values as well as the adoption of a risk-based approach. Telcos will step up adoption of trustworthy AI to empower customers, enable smart networks and expand their digital services offering.

Becoming more sustainable, seizing the ICT’s enabling potential

ETNO seconds the European Commission’s ambition to curb carbon emissions and to promote the circular economy. We support strong policy measures to boost the uptake of digital technology across industrial sectors, as this is expected to lead to a reduction of 1.34 Gt by 2030, against a business-as-usual scenario. When it comes to our sector, telecom companies continue leading the fight to reduce their own carbon intensity. ETNO members increased the use of renewable energy by 18% and reduced the use of non-renewable by 9% in just one year (2017-2018). By end 2019, 50% of the energy used by ETNO companies already came from renewable sources.

Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO, said: “European Commission President von der Leyen, EVP Vestager and Commissioner Breton put ambition at the centre of Europe’s new digital strategy. 5G, fibre and telecom services will play a major role in delivering on the new goals. We must keep policy focus on facilitating networks deployment, which will in turn boost sustainable growth for both citizens and businesses.”

Media contact: 

Alessandro Gropelli
Director of Strategy & Communications

Alessandro Gropelli is ETNO’s Director of Strategy and Communications. In this role, he is also Deputy to the Director General. He joined ETNO in 2013 and he is an expert of tech and telecoms policy

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