Kroes outlines controversial “open data” plan for Europe

European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has outlined a five-point plan to support the evolution of Europe’s telecoms sector. Part of her plan called for the industry to share experiences, data and infrastructure, claiming that this is the way business must evolve to benefit the industry. She also called on Europe’s telecoms industry to focus now on developing 5G networks, a point that the GSMA’s director general appeared to take exception to.

Speaking at the GSMA’s Mobile 360 event in Brussels, Kroes recounted an anecdote of two 14 year old entrepreneurs who she recently met at an event. Kroes noticed that one of the young entrepreneurs gave away a trade secret to his competitor.

“When I pointed this out to him, he turned to me and said: “Madam, you are very old fashioned” – and he was right; those were very wise words,” she said.

She explained that sharing data, experiences and infrastructure is how Europe’s telco sector can get itself back to a leading position, and referred to open data – the idea that certain data from private and public organisations should be freely available to everyone to use – as a “rich fuel for innovation”.

Another part of her plan called for the industry to focus now on developing 5G technologies, since Europe has lagged behind other developed markets with respect to the rollout of 4G networks. However, GSMA director general Anne Bouverot responded to the comments by insisting there is still much to be done to roll out the region’s 4G networks, and that this should take priority.

Kroes said: “Even as we roll out the latest 4G networks, I know we also need to look ahead to invest in researching the next generation of networks – I am talking about 5G. We missed 4G, we were the leader in 3G, now let’s take over the 5G.”

However, GSMA’s Bouverot expressed her concern that Kroes’ comments suggested that rolling out 4G networks should not take precedence here and now.

“I don’t think we should give up on the deployment of 4G, I think we are at the beginning of the deployment of 4G,” she said. “We shouldn’t just say that because we started slowly and maybe we didn’t have the right investment, let’s completely forget it.

“5G will not come until ten years from now. I’m not ready to say let’s not do anything until ten years passes by.”

The other points of Kroes’ plan were less contentious. She called for “proven telecommunications networks that are reliable, fast and pervasive – with telecoms companies that can smash boundaries and think big.”

She also called on stakeholders in the connected cities vision; energy firms, transport firms and telcos, to form partnerships and enhance innovation. Finally she called on policy makers to support innovation by giving entrepreneurs and start-ups the tools and resources they need to be successful.


Neelie Kroes will be giving a keynote speech at Broadband World Forum 2013, 22-24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Conference Centre in Amsterdam.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Mike Fritsch 09/09/2013 @ 7:55 pm

    4G has been driven towards the right technology choice to a large extent by European Telcos via their work in NGMN, the US Telcos then jumped on it and focused on rolling it out on a big scale. And scale is something Europe lacks in all respects – scattered spectrum allocations and auctions, mini operators in all countries that struggle to make a living and individual networks and operations in all countries. The regulation has too much focused on competition in local markets, forgetting that big investments need a return and scale in operations. Focusing on 5G will not change that picture, “skipping 4G” is not an option on the technology reoadmap.
    Competitiveness on a global scale will not happen with 3-4 local operators by country – it may well happen with 3-4 big European operators that can operate under similar conditions with standardised technologies across the continent. Fragmentation has never been a recipe for leadership…

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