Mobile: Europe at the Crossroads

By September 16, 2013

Europe was a pioneer in the mobile industry, but now appears to be lagging behind in terms of the services the sector is offering, which are needed to help drive economic growth.

Europe can boast solid foundations in the field of mobile telecommunications. A recently-published report by the GSMA, the association representing mobile operators and related companies worldwide, entitled Mobile Economy Europe 2013, shows that in fact Europe has the world’s highest unique subscriber penetration rate, at 79%.  Nevertheless, it is the only region to see revenues actually decline, with turnover falling from €162 billion in 2010 to €151 billion in 2012. As a direct consequence, Europe is now falling behind in the deployment of next-generation mobile technologies.  The GSMA has already set in motion a ‘Connected Living’ initiative designed to help mobile operators accelerate the delivery of new connected devices and services.  Now its latest report underlines action needed at European Union level in order to remedy deficiencies and widen the impact of mobile in key industry sectors.


Creating a ‘connected Europe’ by 2020


The European Union has already embarked on a pan-European approach to radio spectrum release, indicating that a total of 1200MHz of spectrum should be allocated by 2015 to meet the expected growth in data traffic. However, spectrum release needs to be speeded up and meanwhile there are a number of policy and regulatory areas which need attention, argues the GSMA.  For instance, the European Commission could help reduce barriers to efficient market consolidation by simplifying merger reviews and taking a more cautious approach to the imposition of remedies, says the report. Moreover, if mobile operators are to continue developing new services, they need a regulatory framework which allows them to create business and pricing models that are more closely geared to the services that consumers are looking for and are willing to pay for.


Encouraging innovation, fostering consumer confidence


Another key point is that the mobile industry in Europe must continue to proactively address issues such as fraud, spam and privacy concerns. The GSMA points out that consumers want meaningful information and consistent rules but argues that regulators should focus on ensuring transparency – not setting prescriptive rules – in these areas. The report underlines that despite the current difficulties mobile is still a potential key driver for re-launching economic growth in Europe. The mobile ecosystem is a strategic sector, generating approximately 2.1% of total European Union GDP in 2012. However, at the end of 2012, next-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology accounted for just 0.3% of all mobile devices in Europe, compared to 11% in the US and 28% in South Korea. “Europe was long viewed as a pioneer in mobile, but (…) is now lagging behind other regions in the deployment of mobile broadband,” warned the GSMA Director General, Anne Bouverot.

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