Politics is starting to turn in favour of telco – ETNO

Despite the promises made by politicians, few in the telco, technology or media industry would believe politics is designed to help, but ETNO think the tides are turning.

At the 5G Core conference in Madrid this week, much of the attention has been directed towards the technological side of the business. Few would complain about this bias, it is a technology conference after all, however there has been a reminder of the challenging element of politics.

“We can all agree that 5G is a strategic challenge for Europe,” said Lise Fuhr, Director General of ETNO. “But there is another part and that is what is role of politics, policy and society? What are the obstacles and enablers of 5G? How do we partner with the different stakeholders to make 5G happen in a fast way?”

As mentioned above, almost every politician who is worth his or her salt has been breaching the benefits of a more favourable regulatory and policy environment to facilitate investment in the TMT segments, but there seem to be few real-world benefits. This however might well change in the near future.

A good sign of this optimistic future are the new appointments at the European Commission.

On November 1, Ursula von der Leyen will assume office as the new President of the European Commission. Although von der Leyen is a career politician, she first assumed political office in 2001, she has at least made the advancement of the digital economy in Europe a priority.

In her ‘manifesto’, future-proofing the European economy for the digital age was listed as the third priority. 5G is a key component of this message from von der Leyen, as is artificial intelligence and high-performance computing. von der Leyen might not have experience in the technology industry, but at least she realises the importance and is prioritising advancement in the field.

The second appointment is Sylvie Goulard as Commissioner for the Internal Market. In this role, Goulard has been tasked with overseeing the progression towards a digital economy, with one component to ‘enhancing Europe’s technological sovereignty’ and another to define ‘standards for 5G networks and new-generation technologies’.

From Fuhr’s perspective, this is a sign of positive intent. From the outset of her tenure, von der Leyen has set digital as a top priority. It is an add-on as it might have been considered for other politicians, it isn’t necessarily a plug for headlines, it is a proactive progression towards the digital economy.

Looking at the policy side, the European Electronic Communications code is ‘a compromise’ according to Fuhr. The policy could have been more ambitious to help the industry, but at least it isn’t doing any harm. New spectrum will be released, ownership of licences has been extended for telcos and there is positive work in the small cells area as well.

While these are not definite signs politics and policies are going to be enablers of digital progress, there is plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong, all the right noises are being made by the European Commission. There is still plenty of risk, but it looks promising.

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