A single telecoms market for Europe – long suggested and lengthily discussed – is now firmly on the agenda. And there’s a date for it, assuming the continent’s most complex modelling task has been completed first.
Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has laid out her argument that only tighter coordination of the radio spectrum across all 28 EU nations will bring the level of economic benefits the commission has envisaged for 2020.
She points out how the EU is lagging behind both the US and East Asia in the next generation of mobile connections and says: “Europe lacks a genuine single market for electronic communications. The Union is fragmented into distinct national markets and as a result Europe is losing out on a major source of potential growth.”
The resource to fuel that growth may well be the frequencies held by the military and broadcasters. “Commissioner Kroes doesn’t say as much, but there are a lot of professionals who believe she cannot deliver the level of connection she desires without prising away spectrum from current holders,” comments ATDI managing director Peter Paul. “I wish her luck with that one. Neither broadcasters nor the armed forces have ever voluntarily relinquished what they hold so it’s going to take plenty of willpower and, probably, legislation to make it happen.”
The push towards rationalisation is also likely to include harmonising what frequencies each of the big mobile companies hold so that the spectrum they each use is the same across all EU nations. “It’s another task I would not like to tackle,” Peter says. “These are powerful companies, both economically and politically, and I just hope the commission can provide a harmonisation plan that makes them all happy.”
Peter adds: “I am conscious of just how much modelling will be needed in the harmonisation process. Indeed, this will be the most complex modelling operation Europe has ever seen and useful options will have to be developed so that they can be evaluated objectively by many interested parties.
“This modelling task will not just deal with physics and geography but with politics and economics, too. ATDI has learned through its work with everything from windfarms to airports that local politics can be a very powerful thing. Add into that national and international sensitivities and the kind of experience we have in liaising with opposing parties and easing concerns will be of profound value.”