Kroes urges telcos to change

Departing European Commission VP, Neelie Kroes, has warned telcos that they must change their attitude if Europe is to become a single telecoms market.

Speaking at what is likely to be her last address to European operators before new Commission takes over at the end of October, Kroes said: “Your message is clear; that we need to change regulation. But you have to change too. ‘Regulate my rival’ is not a general call that will ever find much resonance.”

Kroes nodded towards the somewhat turbulent relationship she has shared with the telecoms sector during her tenure, having previously described some players as uncooperative.

“You’re probably all looking forward to the very near future, when the [Jean-Claude] Juncker Commission takes office, when you won’t have to put up with me anymore,” she said.

Kroes also said that the existing state of European telecoms was not the fault of over-the-top (OTT) players, and urged operators to work with, rather than against them, before moving on to highlight the importance of the Internet-of-Things (IoT), Big Data, cloud computing and 5G.

“Today, all EU homes have broadband coverage; 76% have a connection; almost half can access it on their mobile,” she said. “They are demanding greater and greater bandwidth, faster and faster speeds, and are prepared to pay for it. But how many of them would do that if there were no OTT services? If there were no Facebook, no YouTube, no Netflix, no Spotify? OTT players are the ones driving digital demand, demand for your services. That is something you can work with, not against.”

Kroes will be replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1, but reminded operators the drive for the Digital Single Market in Europe would remain of key importance.

“This is a project that will continue under the next mandate,” Kroes said. “A project that can ensure our digital future, where a strong telecoms sector supports every European. That is what I long for, as that is what all of you should long for too.”

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