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Speech at the 7th Annual EU Spectrum Management Conference

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Speech by Gunnar Hökmark, MEP and Vice President of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, on the 19th of June in Brussels at the 7th Annual EU Spectrum Management Conference 

To generate growth and to get out of the crisis Europe must secure leadership regarding the use of Internet, broadband, mobile data traffic and Internet services. These are crucial for growth, productivity and competitiveness. We all know that. All governments know that. Commission knows that. The industry knows it. And the rest of the world knows it. It is just to act. If we want to achieve growth, will say.

It is trivial to say to an audience like this, but the growth and development of mobile data traffic and Internet services corresponds to growth in the economy. Increased information and services spin off from this. Increased productivity. New innovations. More trade. More competition. More shared science and know how. More activities in the economy.  More exchange. 

So all the activities that are required for growth and competitiveness are leading to more data traffic and more use of Internet. If the capacity hinders all these activities we will get less growth, less productivity and less competitiveness. And from another perspective: the more activities we can open up for in the Internet, broadband and through mobile data traffic the more growth, productivity and competitiveness we will achieve. It should be an easy choice.

Two things must be done and I will explain why.

First we must, from now on, take the step to start opening up the 700 MHz band for mobile data traffic. We must do it as soon as possible and we should use the opportunity to for the first time launch a number of European licenses for the 700 MHz band. Member states could own their shares and get their money as with national licenses, with the difference that each of them will get more out of more valuable European licences.

Second we must use the European funding for broadband in order to achieve coverage where commercial investors can’t invest – thereby connecting the worlds biggest digital market – and in order to reach to our university, cities and capitals levels of capacity, above what today is commercially possible – that has so far been seen nowhere.

We should make all the classical universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Salamanca, Bologna, Sorbonne, Heidelberg, Prague and Tartu, just mentioning a few, and if I might add the most noble of them all, the University of Lund, to global network and knowledge centres, attracting, developing and distributing excellence.

And all the cities that once lay behind the Iron Curtain, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities could by this, each of them, be a global centre by itself.

We can do it. It’s just a matter of understanding the magnitude of change and to act decisively.

 My first point of departure for Europe’s Digital Agenda is the remarkable growth in mobile data traffic that we are facing.

Even the most ambitious predictions about internet connectivity, demand development and capacity requirements keep being overrun by reality. All the time. To illustrate the magnitude of change let me just present a snap-shop on some recent figures from the Ericsson study I guess that most of you have seen, and it doesn’t differ from other corresponding studies and forecasts:

·        Global data traffic is expected to grow 15 times by the end of 2017

·        By 2017, 85% of the world’s population will have 3G coverage. For many people around the world, the mobile phone will be the only means of accessing the internet.

·        Total smartphone subscriptions are expected to reach around 3 billion in 2017.

·        The total number of mobile subscriptions globally will reach around 9 billion in 2017, of which 5 billion will be for mobile broadband

These are impressive figures that will require ambitious policies. If Europe is to be home to the new digital revolution where new services and innovations create prosperity and economic growth, we need to have the fastest broadband speeds in the world.

The Radio Spectrum Policy program adopted last year is an important step but we need to do more already now.

·        Firstly, the recently adopted spectrum program is one important remedy to address this challenge and will play a crucial part in Europe’s efforts to deploy superfast broadband. More frequencies and more capacity mean higher speeds and more growth.

·       Secondly, a first cornerstone in this equation is the 800 MHz band which will be freed up for mobile broadband by 2013 thanks to the RSPP. I am glad to see that outstanding issues with neighbouring countries were resolved at the WRC conference in February this year.  This will facilitate the roll out of 4G in Europe. 

·        Thirdly, the RSPP also gives a clear mandate to the Commission to asses and report by 1 January 2015 if there is a need to harmonise additional spectrum bands. The obligation on Member States to de facto report capacity requirements and their current use of spectrum is something they can not shy away from.  

·        Finally, freeing up 1.200 MHz for mobile broadband by 2015 as stipulated by the RSPP is instrumental for taking Europe to a frontier position. And reaching the already decided target of up to 1200 MHz requires more spectrum.

But market developments will continue to overrun our predictions. If Europe wants to take the global lead, we must do more.

And that’s my second point of departure for Europe’s digital agenda.  And that’s where the 700 MHz band comes in. To consider this as a part of the RSPP was a part of my report that Parliament adopted in 2011, although the resistance in Council was too strong for an agreement. But it is still of vital importance, because of its strategic importance for mobile data traffic and because of its international interoperability. And the agreement to asses the future need and to set a target on 1200 MHz was based on the need to have an eye on the 700 MHz band.

·        At the WRC-12 in January/February in Geneva, Europe found itself in an unfortunate and defensive situation in relation to other regions with regard to the discussion on new spectrum for mobile broadband communications.

·        While the Arab and African countries suggested to extend broadband allocations into the 700 MHz band, EU Member States remained passive and hesitant, resulting in a postponement of this decision until 2015!

It is my firm belief that Europe can not afford to be reactive and hesitant in this issue if we want to take the global lead. Our policies must be future looking instead of conserving old structures. The problem of the broadcasting industry is not a shortage of spectrum; it is outdated business models that have not kept pace with the speed of development.

·        To meet future capacity requirements we must start serious discussions about freeing up the 700 MHz band (and frequencies below) to mobile broadband. Voluntary industry agreements are preferable but legislative action should not be out ruled.

·        We should also seek solutions for more broadband capacity in the 1.4 and the 2.4 GHz band as well as looking at higher frequencies around 3000 MHz.

Until next WRC 2015 Europe must intensify it’s discussions on the 700 MHz band in order to make it available for mobile broadband. Either by encouraging the broadcasting and mobile industries to find a mutually beneficial solution or by legislation.

My third point of departure is that the Digital Agenda needs targets that are relevant in view of the rapid development.

·        EU:s current target that all Europeans should have access to 30 Mbps by 2020 (50% 100 mps) broadband is already outdated. Other global actors are moving ahead with much higher speeds and capacity.

·        If Europe wants to become a global leader in mobile and telecoms we can not rely on outdated targets but must set world leading targets and we need to deliver on these ambitions.

·        Due to extensive fiber investments triggered by the exponential growth in mobile data traffic national regulators are reviewing their targets. I would like to launch the discussion that the target that 50 % of households should have access to 100 mbps should be by 2015 and not 2020. And we need to sharpen the target for 100 % of the households in the same way, as well as the targets for 2020.

We must set targets in gigabytes instead of megabytes.

In my role as rapporteur within the EPP group (the biggest group in the European Parliament) for the broadband report in the European Parliament on trans-European telecommunications network I am proposing the following actions:

.         Much more ambitious targets regarding household coverage and capacity by 2015, following the lines above, as well as 2020, securing global lead and excellence latest at that time.

·        If otherwise not, as a criteria for public funding, meaning that it  shall only be available in cases where there is no market interest, regarding coverage but also higher capacities.

·        A real push for the deployment of ultrafast broadband which can deliver speeds with criteria’s ranging from at least 1 Gbps and beyond. In order to trigger market investments funds could be used in high density areas and for example university campus, only if these networks deliver world-leading speeds up to 1 Gbps or maybe substantially higher.

·        Technology neutrality must be an overarching principle. Investments in fixed and mobile and its different technologies are equally important.

·        Projects that receive funding should not block services on their networks.

·        Broadband networks that receive funding must be open for competition in the retail market.  

With RSPP, with the opportunities to use Internet abroad, by structural reforms in the new roaming directive and by an increased and targeted funding for the best broadband in the world we can take the lead. It’s just to decide.