26 June, 2024

ETNO calls for transformative connectivity policies to secure Europe’s competitiveness

Brussels, 26 June 2024 – Today, 76% of European citizens see advanced connectivity as essential in improving their lives and socio-economic prospects, with almost 30% asking to strengthen the availability of high-speed internet for everyone, everywhere.

ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading telecom operators, urges the new European leadership to take swift action and to substantially adjust the telecom and competition policies in order to strengthen the connectivity ecosystem. In our response to the European Commission consultation on the White Paper "How to Master Europe’s Digital Infrastructure Needs?", we underline once more that connectivity is crucial to ensure the economic competitiveness and security of the Continent, which require well designed regulation that promotes investment and innovation.

Europe is one of the most digitized economies and societies globally. However, with the EU share in the global ICT market having dropped by 10% since 2013 [European Commission, 2023], we have fallen behind global peers in innovation and investment in the connectivity ecosystem.

The next 12 months are vital to set the stage for improving Europe's connectivity, as our digital infrastructures are meant to benefit European citizens and businesses. Europe cannot wait to bridge its investment and innovation gap. Modernisation and simplification of current rules, delivered in a timely fashion, can be a gamechanger for the whole of our economy and society.

ETNO suggests strengthening Europe’s connectivity ecosystem – ranging from network technology companies to operators, innovators, SMEs in the ICT sector and users – by prioritising the following pillars:

  • Uniting for a real EU digital market. Europe needs to overcome its digital and telecom fragmentation and create a true pan-European market with more harmonised rules so we can seamlessly offer services, innovate and develop synergies across borders. We must achieve adequate levels of scale, including within national markets: the EU Merger Regulation should be reviewed.
  • Investing in world-class, secure and resilient networks, for all. Each and every EU citizen should have access to the best connectivity. Considering market evolutions at play, it is time to fundamentally review the EU regulatory framework to promote massive and fast-paced investment in the roll-out of gigabit networks. Instead of the concept of SMP, we should now rely on general competition law and symmetric rules by default, with ex-ante obligations becoming the exception based on a safety net. Spectrum policy should do its part too, by boosting 5G and laying the ground for 6G. Further harmonisation is required and should be supported by a new EC notification process: license conditions, fees, award and renewal processes should be set in a pro-investment manner throughout EU, with a long-term view.
  • Promoting innovation with modernised rules and ensuring fair rules. Technology has reshaped the connectivity markets. We need to streamline sectoral regulation, by removing unnecessary rules and harmonising more at the EU level (e.g., consumer, security, taxation). A level-playing field is needed to ensure the same rules apply for comparable services, no matter whether offered by a telecom or a tech company. Fairness in the internet ecosystem should be promoted by tackling the current asymmetries in the connectivity value chain. In addition, targeted regulatory action by introducing a dispute resolution is needed to ensure that large CAPs adequately remunerate valuable IP data transport services provided by network operators.
  • Crafting a strong industrial policy for secure and sustainable connectivity. The EU should match its industrial policy ambitions with adequate funding and policy planning. The effectiveness and coordination of different funding programs should be improved and targeted funds for distributed and AI-ready cloud infrastructure, Open RAN and subsea cables should be increased. Industry cooperation should be promoted and new initiatives supported: a new flagship project for distributed cloud infrastructure, operator hosted EU Open RAN labs for testing and validation, a joint EU collaboration system for submarine cables governance, a plan to develop an EU quantum cryptography ecosystem, and a policy plan for the green transition in the telecoms sector.

The Association’s response to the public consultation is a call to action for the next European Commission and the new European Parliament to embrace transformative policies that will secure Europe’s digital future and ensure our global competitiveness.

© ETNO 2024
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