21 February, 2024

EU Connectivity Package: a step in the right direction, ambition and timely action are of essence

Brussels, 21 February 2024 – ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading telecom operators, welcomes the European Commission’s efforts to pave the way towards a more innovation-oriented, forward-looking and investment-friendly telecom policy for the EU. This will be crucial to bring the benefits of connectivity to all users, including SMEs as well as citizens who live in rural areas.

New policy cornerstones: competitiveness, sustainability and security

The European Commission’s White Paper on "How to master Europe's digital infrastructure needs?” addresses the relevant challenges and aims at improving the competitiveness of the EU. The Paper draws an accurate picture of Europe’s connectivity ecosystem, encompassing telecom operators, vendors, customers and developers. We share the view that supporting this diverse ecosystem requires a step change in investment levels, which must be enabled by a reform of EU rules and policies. With the transition to gigabit infrastructures, 5G, cloud-defined networks and AI-automation, Europe’s telecom and competition policy needs a paradigm shift in light of the new market and technology reality.

In this context, we welcome the clear recognition of scale as an essential enabler: in a software and cloud-defined world, the current levels of market fragmentation are simply against Europe’s strategic interest. We also highly appreciate the recognition that European telecom policy should embrace a wider set of socio-economic objectives, including “sustainability, industrial competitiveness, and economic security”. We also agree with the need of taking stock of the role and responsibilities of tech companies in the connectivity value-chain, especially in light of current asymmetries in regulation and market power. The recognition of networks in the EU Taxonomy on sustainable finance is also an important and positive element. Finally, we welcome the comprehensive approach to all strategic connectivity, including submarine cables and satellite-terrestrial integration, which are key to Europe’s digital sovereignty. All of this is urgent, as the global race to lead in the connectivity ecosystem will not wait for Europe to debate and decide.

New rules: the need for concrete, bold and urgent action

ETNO will contribute to the public consultation: we encourage the European Commission to inject an adequate level of ambition, specificity and focus in its future action plan to achieve the objectives outlined in the White Paper. Among others, we note that:

  • A pro-investment rulebook for telecoms will need to give investors an ambitious and intelligible signal of clear discontinuity with the past: in the gigabit networks era, regulation can no longer be an automatic reflex, but it must only address proven market failures and competition concerns;
  • Creating the adequate scale for European connectivity players will require a change in merger policy. As a way to boost the creation of a real EU telecoms single market, it will be important to enable in-market consolidation, supporting investment incentives and safeguarding consumers;
  • Harmonization will need to be concrete and effective, so that spectrum, consumer rules, data and security policies finally contribute to the telecoms single market also on the supply-side. Demand-side policies and stimulus will remain crucial as we support digital uptake by SMEs and users;
  • Measures to recognise the role of tech companies in connectivity will need to ensure fairness in the ecosystem;
  • Creating a European ecosystem for strategic connectivity tech – such as edge cloud and Open RAN – will require an ambitious industrial policy with adequate funding and large-scale deployment across the EU.

ETNO and its membership – embracing 32 European telecom operators and 9 leading companies in the connectivity value-chain – stand ready to share their expertise in the upcoming response to the Public Consultation. Once a new policy path is set, it will be important to act fast, so we can strengthen the European connectivity ecosystem and produce tangible results for European citizens.

© ETNO 2024
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