PM+: Digital single market an opportunity EU cannot afford to miss

Written by Anne Bouverot on 23 March 2015 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

It's time for Europe to reclaim its leading role as a digital innovator, writes Anne Bouverot.

The theme of this year's GSMA mobile world congress in Barcelona was 'the edge of innovation' and to see the incredible array of digital innovation on display there was to see the future.

You can feel the passion that has been liberated by the explosion of digital over the last 25 years or so; no industry has had the same exponential and transformative growth or had such an impact on everybody's lives.

A lot of that passion and innovation comes from Europe, of course. But in recent years it seems that the edge of innovation has been elsewhere, in the US or Asia.

"We've got to get Europe back in the lead in this race, as was the case with the first generation of mobile phones. Europe's global competitiveness depends on innovation and growth in next generation networks, now and into the future"

We've got to get Europe back in the lead in this race, as was the case with the first generation of mobile phones. Europe's global competitiveness depends on innovation and growth in next generation networks, now and into the future.

As the key to future European prosperity, digital has to be diffused throughout all parts of European society and economy.

This is not simply a story of networks that reach everyone, important though that is. Rather it is about the incredible innovation that comes from the interplay and collaboration between all involved.

I'm talking about the investors and operators of the networks, as well as those who run ever increasing amounts of data back and forth on those networks, such as video, mobile payments, health bands, connected cars, never mind connected toothbrushes and suitcases.

It also fully involves the people and businesses that use those services. And, just as crucially, it means the policy makers who are passionate about seeing Europe's digital single market happen.

But what exactly does that mean?  What is the digital single market? Is it the provision of seamless services across borders? Is it having the same price everywhere or having a single EU regulator or having pan-EU champion companies?

I don't actually know the answer, but I know for sure that it must involve network infrastructure.

A key part of my job is to explain what networks need from policy in order to be that enabling platform for all the above innovation.

Surely policy should support investment in infrastructure. Put simply, without networks there is no digital single market.

"Policy makers should take the responsibility to address any imbalances in the rules that apply in delivering many digital services. 'Same service, same rules' should be the guiding principle as this will ensure safer, better quality and more seamless services for Europe's citizens"

Yet every new technology seems to accelerate towards the next change. No sooner did we have 3G as the next big thing, than we found we were not investing fast enough to complete even the 4G revolution before it was time for 5G.

It is up to the industry to step up to that challenge. That's our responsibility. However, investors in digital infrastructure are often disadvantaged when it comes to competing in delivering services.

So policymakers should take the responsibility to address any imbalances in the rules that apply in delivering many digital services. 'Same service, same rules' should be the guiding principle as this will ensure safer, better quality and more seamless services for Europe's citizens.

The digital single market opportunity must not be missed. It is too important for Europe's economy, its businesses and its people. Just like innovation in the digital market place, policymakers, network companies and everyone else need to work together today to create the 'edge of tomorrow'.

 

About the author

Anne Bouverot is the director general of GSMA, the organisation representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide

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