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Neelie Kroes

European Commissioner for Digital agenda

The Digital Agenda: challenges for Europe and the mobile industry

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Mobile World Congress 2010

Barcelona, 15th February 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is my first official public event as the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda. And I can’t think of a better event to showcase the nature and challenges of this portfolio. With so many impressive voices from both the public and private sectors represented here, and in the great city of Barcelona, it is indeed a pleasure to be here.

Europe is a global leader in mobile technologies, so I consider it extremely valuable to exchange ideas with you. Together we need to find ways to continue your success, and to apply it elsewhere. Other aspects of the Digital Agenda would do well to seek to match your achievements.

The challenges are vast, especially at a time when Europe is slowly recovering from the economic crisis.

But if together we capitalise on our strengths, it will mean more jobs for Europe, better services for your customers and sustainable income for your businesses.

State of the sector

I always like to underline that you are largely masters of your own fate, and you are now at a crossroads. The transition to next generation, Internet–based environments is the sector’s greatest challenge since market liberalisation. But I am an optimist and am sure that this offer great business opportunities for you all. While it is clear that legacy mobile and fixed markets are nearly mature, the introduction of new services - such as bundled offers of broadband, telephone and TV over the Internet - are also a new opportunity. Convergence also delivers better value for consumers – which they need in the downturn. But it is also a chance for you to offer them new value-added services, which will generate new revenues.

More than that, I believe that consumers are eager to get access to new innovative services and devices. The availability of high quality content should drive take-up of new technologies, in particular broadband internet, digital television and mobile communication.

I will certainly be trying to open up this market for you. But not only for you - I also want to create new incentives for content providers and others in the creative industries. Because I believe that the development of new innovative content and applications will be a driver for higher demand for broadband and new business opportunities.

R est assured that I place a high value on predictability and transparency in the regulatory landscape. I know you require this in order to make substantial investments to upgrade both the fixed and mobile networks that are needed to deliver better services and avoid congestion.

Digital agenda

Many of you may be asking – what exactly does she mean by the Digital Agenda? What I mean is the core vision, targets and priority actions that we will pursue over the next five years, which will be outlined shortly in a strategy document to be adopted by the Commission.

In the broader sense, we are referring to a cross-cutting and very ambitious agenda for action that will keep Europe at the forefront of 21 st century economic and social developments.

Clearly, I believe that national and European authorities at all levels must show leadership on these issues:

  • High-speed internet for all Europeans will not happen by itself.

  • And our citizens need support to learn and use new and different skills to take advantage of the digital world.

  • Indeed, wherever I can remove a barrier to action, or help to drive up demand, I believe it is my job to help. You can count on me to be there.

By getting the right ambitious agenda in place now, we will contribute to a generation of growth and jobs in Europe.

We are working already with the Parliament and Member States to develop the details of the Digital Agenda in the coming months. Your feedback and input will be essential for making this a credible programme.

Let me now highlight some of the key issues that may apply to you in this room in particular:

Consistent regulatory environment for a Digital Single Market

Europe is still a patchwork of national markets. We no longer have queues of lorries at frontiers but we are still very far from achieving a Digital Single Market where digital goods and services can be sold on equal terms in all Member States. All too often digital goods and services cannot be sold on a truly pan-European basis because each national market is regulated differently. I would encourage you to nevertheless try to become more active on a pan-European basis; by growing in scale you will take advantage of the opportunities of the Single Market, delivering better and cheaper services across the borders for European consumers.

I want to be clear here. If you want to take advantage of the current fragmentation of the single market, I will stand in your way. But if you are ready to operate across the borders in a really integrated European market, I will be your best ally. And your calls for consistent regulation will grow louder, I am sure.

In those wider markets we will still need strong competition. Here, I believe that in the past years I have shown the importance I attach to this principle and my determination to achieve competitive markets. In understanding market dynamics and what can help markets to work better, I hope to bring fresh perspectives to your issues. Competition keeps you 'on your toes', helps to grow markets and provides a great incentive for private investment.

More broadly, I think the newly-adopted regulatory framework for telecoms provides a supportive and predictable environment for this scenario to unfold:

  • First, the reform reaffirms competition while improving preserving incentives to invest. With regard to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband for example, you will get your chance for a fair return on your investments.

  • Second, on radio frequency spectrum, the stronger emphasis on technology and service flexibility will deliver a more level playing field for different technologies. This means more potential for new, income-generating services.

  • And finally, the Commission's strengthened role regarding regulatory obligations and the new Body of European Regulators (BEREC) for telecommunications will lead to consistency and a strong push from regulators for a real single market for telecommunications services.

This is a good basis for our work, but much still needs to be done.

Speaking about broadband, I will come forward in a few months with my proposal for an ambitious and comprehensive European strategy. A key element of it will of course concern wireless and mobile services, which are essential also to ensure a sufficient level and quality of coverage for all European citizens.

This will require an appropriate and coordinated action also on radio spectrum issues. Spectrum is a scarce resource and we all agree that an efficient use of the radio bandwidth becoming available with the switch to digital technologies, the so-called digital dividend, and other coordinated actions are needed to allow better and more innovative mobile services. We cannot be complacent about this: opening up spectrum is not the same as using it well. We cannot waste opportunities. In context of the Spectrum Summit that we will organise next month with the European Parliament you will have your chance to express your views about this, in order to contribute to the preparation of multiannual spectrum programming.

More generally, we have to ensure that the new framework is implemented correctly and on time in all Member States. This should allow achieving better functioning and more competitive markets.

I will follow market developments carefully. For instance, I am hopeful that, in more efficient and integrated markets, roaming prices will fall.

Boosting demand

I am sure I don't need to tell you that consumer trust and confidence plays a crucial role in encouraging people to use new digital services. But I want to repeat the message for the benefit of sceptical consumers: we need and want to increase trust in the online world .

If people fear for their privacy or are worried about fraud your businesses cannot develop their full potential. Only 12% of EU web users feel completely safe making transactions on the Internet and 39% of EU Internet users have major doubts about safety. It is not a surprise then that nearly half refuse to carry out financial transactions online. Every person who refuses on grounds of trust is a lost business opportunity for you.

My point here is that trust is a wider issue than security, and the openness of the Internet makes it very difficult to properly address trust issues. But having such as open Internet is one of the prices, and one of the gifts, of democracy - so that is not in question.

What we need to do is to help you in consumer education and ensure greater clarity regarding the different responsibilities of public and private sector in respect to security issues.

What is certain is that we need better Europe-wide co-operation: Europe's online world is only as secure as its weakest link. I think this applies to both public and private sectors.

In conclusion I hope this is the start of a good friendship. I am here to listen and to co-operate.

But please also bear in mind that I am not here to be popular. You could say that I have an open mind, but also a determined mind.

Having said that, I think our combined efforts can build a credible agenda, and then, more importantly, I am ready to work with you to put it into practice.

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