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European Commission

Press Release

Brussels, 25 July 2013

Connected continent? Three-quarters have no 4G access!

As European holidaymakers head to the beach and mountains for their ritual summer holidays, new figures show virtually none of them will have 4G access when they arrive. Three out of every four people living in the EU can’t access 4G/LTE mobile connections in their hometowns, and virtually no rural area has 4G. In the United States over 90% of people have 4G access.

Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "I’m on the side of the citizens, the taxpayers, the voters, who just want their phones and tablets to work. It’s frustrating when my phone stops working in Brussels because we only have 3G. Millions share my frustration every day.”

Did you know?

  1. Three EU Member States have no 4G at all (Cyprus, Ireland, Malta)

  2. Only Germany, Estonia and Sweden have advanced roll-out of 4G

  3. There is virtually no 4G coverage in rural areas across the EU

  4. Europe has barely 5% of 4G connections and subscriptions globally.

This is no way to run an economy. It means also that Europeans living in rural areas and those on holiday get treated like second-class citizens,” Vice President Kroes said.

It doesn’t matter where you are, you pay money for a device and mobile subscription and it should work,” insists Kroes.

The problem is getting worse

Neelie Kroes said "The EU is teetering on the edge of network collapse. Global mobile traffic is predicted to grow 66% a year, smart devices are everywhere and people want to watch video on those devices. Without more spectrum being made available the whole thing falls apart."

Don’t blame the EU

Knowing that there is an explosion of demand for data, the EU has made huge amounts of spectrum available to meet the needs of high-speed wireless broadband (see IP/12/929). However, spectrum is actually allocated at the national level. National level problems have caused procedural and licensing delays, while auctioning processes have left mobile operators with little cash for roll-out networks once they have secured the right to do so. Combined with the fragmentation of 28 national markets, it means the mobile operators have no real possibility to develop and EU-wide mobile strategy.

The consequence is that users suffer and the EU lags behind in the global 4G race.

Money problems

The prices companies pay can vary be 50 times higher in one EU country compared to another. This is not the sign of a healthy market. On average spectrum rights are almost 4 times more expensive than in the U.S.

When countries over-squeeze companies in spectrum auctions it hurts the economy because:

  1. High auction prices also means companies cannot afford to invest the €27 billion an EU study concludes is needed for network upgrades.

  2. Because of the delayed network roll-out (infrastructure investments have declined in recent years) new economic activity is held-up and government income from taxes on those new activities never materialises

  3. Companies are left in a precarious financial position (some have debt three times their stock market value)

What is the Commission doing?

  1. Consulting on far greater coordination of spectrum licensing. This would allow operators economies of scale which could come from rolling out 4G in the same spectrum band in several countries at once, and mean consumers get more 4G access sooner.

  2. Launching the preliminary phase of enforcement under Article 6(2) of the Radio Spectrum Policy Programme on authorising EU harmonised spectrum suitable for 4G (870 MHz).

Useful links

Digital Agenda

Neelie Kroes

Wireless-Europe on Digital Agenda Website

Radio Spectrum Policy Programme

#ConnectedContinent

Follow Neelie on Twitter

Contacts

Email: comm-kroes@ec.europa.eu Tel: +32.229.57361 Twitter: @RyanHeathEU


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