Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and Vice President of European Commission, has hit back against those who have questioned the Connected Continent package she drafted to reform the telecoms sector in Europe.
In a speech at the FT ETNO Summit, on tuesday, the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, said her proposals would "treat the sickness" in the sector by providing a "predictable investment environment and incentives to shift to sustainable business models".
Kroes unveiled the Connected Continent package last month, but it received a lukewarm reception from many in the sector, as European Communications reported the following day.
She acknowledged that it was “perhaps inevitable” that stakeholders are deciding “which elements they find sweet, and which they find sour”, but added: “This is a package. You can't take it apart.”
In particular, critics have focused on the changes to roaming charges, which are due to end next year.
Kroes said that, even before the proposals came out, some claimed they would take away revenues needed for short-term investment.
“What investment? Have you been investing your roaming profits so far? Ultimately, roaming is on its way out one way or the other. It is time to surrender the unsustainable – and face the great opportunities of the future.
“The artificial revenues from roaming would not give you the capital needed for next generation investment. That comes from the financial sector, from the investment community. And that community also confirms that my proposals create a predictable environment for investment.”
She said that according to one major investment bank, "eighty-two percent of Europe's major investors" expect the overall package she has proposed will mean greater investment in new networks.
The VP had more questions for the audience as she tackled criticism relating to the proposed capping of premium intra-EU phone calls and establishing net neutrality across the continent.
“Which of you thinks that you can sustain a business model which consists of charging over the odds for intra-European calls and texts, beyond 2016?”
“Which of you thinks your customers would long tolerate an internet service where you decide what they can or can't access?” she asked.
She urged operators to "innovate, tailor different services to different needs and compete, expand and grow".
“This won't be achieved by a sector that looks backwards – to old services, dated business models, declining revenue streams. Your sector will need to change: but emphatically it doesn't need to decline,” said the VP.
A more coordinated assignment of spectrum, as proposed in the draft package, will help to stimulate new mobile innovations, according to Kroes.
“Don't think for a moment that connected cars are going to pay roaming surcharges,” she warned.
Kroes said that the need to act is “urgent”.
“We can't afford to wait… let's start the ball rolling now. We cannot sacrifice that by waiting years.”
“No one can run away from their responsibility to provide this huge digital boost to our economy. No politician; and no telecoms operator either,” she concluded.
The package is due to be supported by the European Council later this month.
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