The GSMA, a trade organisation that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, has published a new report that shows Europe lagging behind the USA when it comes to deploying next-generation mobile technologies and advanced services.
Five years ago, the European mobile market was matching or outperforming the market in the United States, according to the GSMA. However, US consumers now spend more each month than those in Europe. They consume five times more voice minutes and nearly twice as much data as EU consumers.
More US consumers enjoy 4G LTE connections than Europeans: by the end of 2013, almost 20% of US connections are expected to be on LTE networks, compared to under 2% in the EU. In addition, mobile data speeds in the US are currently 75% faster than those in Europe and are expected to be twice as fast by 2017.
Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA, said “Europe was the early leader in mobile, with a wide range of companies pioneering the innovation that now benefits more than 3.2 billion men and women around the world. However, this report confirms the very sobering reality that Europe has lost its edge in mobile and is significantly underperforming other advanced economies, including the United States. While there are many factors that have contributed to Europe’s current position, it is clear that enlightened policy reforms could bring improvement, creating substantial benefits for EU consumers and driving economic growth.”
The GSMA is calling on regulators to focus on investment and innovation rather than the direct management of prices. It’s making four recommendations that it says are essential to re-establish the leadership of Europe in mobile, bringing benefits to the mobile industry and its customers:
Prioritise Spectrum Allocation and Harmonisation
The European Commission’s immediate priority should be to address the slow progress being made on the release of the first Digital Dividend, where the majority of Member States have missed the allocation deadline. In the coming years, Europe faces a significant spectrum shortfall that must be addressed now. It is critical that the European Commission ensures the allocation of the 700MHz band for future mobile broadband services and, importantly, that it is released in line with internationally harmonised band plans.
Enable Efficient Consolidation
The Commission should reduce impediments to the efficient consolidation of mobile markets by streamlining merger reviews and taking a more cautious approach to the imposition of remedies. Discrimination in favour of new entrants should be discontinued and market forces should be allowed to determine the optimum number of players.
Drive the European Single Market for Mobile
The European single market for mobile could act as a key enabler for growth. The GSMA believes the European Commission must launch a major regulation exercise to establish a light-touch, simplified approach to pan-European regulation. This would entail a complete review of the way regulation is implemented at a national level and would identify areas that could be more effectively coordinated at a European level, such as consumer protection. Incentives to kick-start broadband investment should be introduced immediately, including the elimination of planning and network sharing restrictions and the provision of subsidies for rural coverage.
Attract Investment and Innovation to Europe
The European Commission should immediately create a bold plan that will position Europe as a centre for mobile innovation and investment, refocusing its policies on fostering innovation and leveraging the unique potential of the single market. The Commission should create a series of pan-European, visionary, mobile-enabled public/private partnership initiatives aimed at stimulating growth, building social inclusion and promoting investment in new technology and services.
[Report: Mobile Wireless Performance in the EU and U.S.]