Europe

European telco bodies highlight tech priorities for Covid recovery

08 July 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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Two bodies representing Europe’s telecommunications industry have called on EU institutions and national governments to take a series of actions as they prioritise digital technology across the continent.

Praising the EU’s focus on digital tech as “a major lever for a strong and sustainable recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic and recession, ETNO and GSMA called for support to stimulate adoption and pursue “innovative infrastructure solutions” such as cloud, edge and quantum computing.

Further they called for a fight on misinformation around the safety of 5G and greater digital skills education.

The letter read: “Telecoms infrastructure and services are the backbone of our social and economic cohesion, they play a critical role in developing a strong European digital ecosystem and they support the pursuit of global leadership in tech.

“This will be instrumental to lift workers and businesses out of the current crisis through sustainable and lasting economic growth. The recovery plans should be an opportunity to accelerate Europe’s competitiveness in key sectors, including cloud and edge computing, and an imperative for education and training.”

The calls coincide with the start of Germany’s EU presidency and propose:

  • A long-term view on spectrum prices, rather than imposing punitive fees that hamper 5G investment. Also, access and coverage obligations should not diminish the speed and scale of investment in network roll-out;
  • Sharing agreements for Radio Access Network (RAN) are supported and incentivised, so that they contribute to a speedy 5G deployment;
  • All fibre investment models are adequately incentivised at the national level, including co-investment and other forms of partnerships;
  • Future EU initiatives dramatically reduce roll-out costs for both mobile and fixed networks, including unreasonable costs for using public ground as well as complex authorisation procedures for both fixed and mobile networks;
  • Open and interoperable interfaces in the RAN are supported.

 Socio-economic context

The letter urged institutions to “take stock of the socio-economic context” and adapt regulatory models accordingly to respond to the increased pace of innovation in the face of a global recession.

The calls echoed similar observations made over recent weeks by Commsworld chair, John Trower.

He told Capacity: “The digital infrastructure decisions that we are making now will impact all of us for years to come.

“Even before we got to the Covid-19 crisis it was becoming apparent that the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution were beginning to kick in and that we have a structural problem that we weren’t really thinking out loud about.”

Supporting such advancement, 5G and fibre provision will become critical over the coming years with ETNO and GSMA maintaining that funding should be introduced to support uptake.

The letter continued: “While continuing to support private investment in 5G and fibre on the supply side, digital policies and public funding should aim at promoting a leap in the uptake of the latest technologies by both citizens and industrial sectors.

Finally, the two bodies highlighted the ability for digitalisation to support the decarbonisation of multiple industries. On “Europe’s ambitious climate targets”, the two wrote they “can only be achieved through radical transformation of sectors like transportation, manufacturing and construction”.

“Europe’s funding to recover from the Covid-19 crisis should prioritise the digital transformation of public services, healthcare systems and education, among others, also through demand stimulus measures.”