Europe’s lagging investment in communications infrastructure was loudly, though timidly addressed at today’s European Summit in Brussels. Political leaders put the digital economy firmly at the top of their agenda and pointed to its central importance in driving growth, innovation and competitiveness. Increasing the NSA’s angst, and to no one’s surprise, it was the United States’ digital capacity which stole the show, proving the importance of digital mastery and the stellar pace of communications innovation.
Anne Bouverot, Director General of GSMA, a lobby group representing mobile operators worldwide said: “We welcome European leaders’ focus on the digital economy as a key driver for growth, jobs and productivity in Europe. Investment in new telecommunications infrastructure, such as 4G, is vital to underpinning this and a supportive policy and regulatory environment must remain a top priority.”
Bouverot commented: “The European Council has sent a strong signal on the need to promote this investment and to accelerate and complete legislative initiatives in key areas such as data protection, e-identification, payments and reducing obstacles to broadband roll-out. Together these can provide a welcome impetus to creating the right policy environment for backing digital growth, one that encourages investment, enables innovation and fosters consumer confidence.”
“Long-term predictability in spectrum policy and more flexibility for spectrum rights holders is particularly important to underpin future investments. Europe has a genuine opportunity to restore its leadership in telecoms,” continued Bouverot. “Without a strong and confident industry, consumers will not be well served. We must not lose sight of this. The European Council has identified other key policy areas that are central to growth such as research, innovation and skills development. We absolutely share these priorities.”
The GSMA takes the view that with mobile now firmly entrenched in consumers’ everyday lives, industry and policymakers must continue to proactively address areas such as privacy concerns. Some existing regulations have been outdated by market and technological developments, and create competitive disadvantages for European businesses in key areas such as consumer protection, network security and data protection. Leaders rightly identified the general data protection regulation as a key priority, said the GSMA.
“We believe it is possible to achieve a framework that is both future-proof and flexible enough to allow the development of new services in Europe, while maintaining Europe’s high standards in the protection of personal data and privacy. To achieve this, we need to ensure a technology neutral approach to ensure privacy is addressed, irrespective of the technology or service involved, or where a company may be located,” concluded Bouverot.
The European Council also addressed the Commission’s recent “Connected Continent” package, with this in mind, the GSMA urged all parties to start work as quickly as possible on more comprehensive proposals that can effectively address the underlying reasons for Europe’s lagging investment in communications infrastructure.