EU sets timeline for single telecoms market
Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has promised to roll out a single telecoms market throughout the EU before she leaves office in one and half years.
“I'm the same age as [ex-Manchester United football club manager] Alex Ferguson, but I have no intention to retire until I've knocked down all the barriers to the single market," the 71-year-old commissioner told an audience at the European Business Summit in Brussels on Tuesday (16 May).
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Kroes said the commission will soon bring forward proposals for a single telecoms market.
“Just think it through, a telecoms market without borders, without fragmentation, and that is the major priority for the rest of my mandate,” she noted.
The commission says completing the internal market in telecommunications could provide an additional €110 billion or 0.8 percent of GDP.
The original deadline for the proposal was this October but it has been brought forward to June, reports the Financial Times.
A single European telephone number that would render roaming charges obsolete might be part of the proposal.
Other ideas include creating a single telecoms regulator as opposed to the current 27 national ones.
The commission also wants to improve the spectrum uptake for broadband and mobile applications.
The European telecom industry has expressed support to the idea in the hope of regaining a competitive edge over US and Asian companies.
“Europe used to lead the way in mobile and ICT [Information and Communications Technology], if we are honest, we have lost our edge,” said another panellist, Michael Duncan, CEO of Telefonica Digital Europe.
“Countries like the United States and China are now setting the agenda, the way Europe used to do five years ago,” he added.
He said Kroes' push for a single digital market will create faster networks, provide better access to digital services and the basis for pan-European services that could become the next generation of global standards.
The Brussels-based European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), which represents 37 companies, says the decline is mainly due to the fragmentation of the European market.
ETNO says fragmentation makes it more difficult for operators to develop new services throughout the EU.
Europe has 1,200 fixed operators and over a hundred mobile operators. The US has six mobile operators and China has three.
Experts say the market for devices that are connected to the Internet, such as smartphones and tablets, will double in the next three to four years.
Christian Morales, vice president and general manager of Intel, says there are about 10 billion devices connected to the Internet.
“By 2015, 2016, we expect 15 billion devices to be connected and we expect 25 to 30 billion by 2020,” he noted.
He said every 11 seconds one petabyte of information is created.
“If one individual would like to watch high-definition films of what one petabyte means, it would take 13 years non-stop,” he added.