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Europe Needs Policies, not just money, to realise the Digital Compass Connectivity Targets


28 May 2021


Innovation & Enterprise
GIGAEurope Event Speakers Set Out Vision for a Connected Europe
  • EU representatives and connectivity industry experts debated policy requirements to ensure every European has access to gigabit speeds and 5G services by 2030.
  • 26th May webinar for inaugural GIGAEurope EU Presidency Event Series included Hugo Santos Mendes, Portuguese Deputy Minister for Communications and Rita Wezenbeek, Director Connectivity, DG CONNECT, as well as speakers from leading connectivity providers.
  • The European connectivity sector is ready to meet Europe’s Digital Decade ambitions, as GIGAEurope members are already testing multi-gigabit access speeds over existing networks.
  • International connectivity is raised by the Portuguese EU Presidency as an additional priority on the EU digital agenda.

Digital Compass 2030

At the GIGAEurope event, EU representatives and connectivity industry representatives discussed the European Commission’s ‘Digital Compass 2030’, which sets a clear course towards achieving its digital sovereignty ambition by 2030. Concrete targets on connectivity, digital skills, public services and transformation of businesses aim to enable Europe to play a leadership role in driving green & digital transition and economic recovery after the pandemic.

Connectivity will be the cornerstone to delivering a successful EU Digital Decade, building on the current momentum for connectivity in keeping societies and businesses running during pandemic. By 2030, every European should have access to gigabit speed and 5G needs to be rolled out across the Union.

Topics discussed during the event included: 

  • How digital policy can support closing the investment gap in connectivity, and reach the Digital Compass 2030 targets by striking the right balance between incentivizing private investment and efficient public funding. 
  • Best practices to remove practical obstacles to the roll-out of fixed & mobile broadband networks that would facilitate achieving the 2030 targets.
  • How appropriate EU policies can convey legal certainty for long-term private infrastructure investment.

International Connectivity Deserves Priority

As a keynote speech, Hugo Santos Mendes, Portuguese Deputy Minister for Communications, raised international connectivity as an additional priority on the EU digital agenda and as a key component of digital sovereignty.

Hugo Santos Mendes, Deputy Minister for Communications, Portugal: “In order to become digitally sovereign and to make autonomous technological choices, the EU must strengthen not only its internal connectivity, but also empower its strategic international links. Europe cannot become an island in the digitally connected ocean.”

Bridging the €42 billion investment gap

According to the European Commission, of the €125bn per annum investment gap to meet the needs of the Digital & Green Transition, connectivity infrastructure alone amounts to €42bn per year.

Rita Wezenbeek, Director Connectivity, DG CONNECT, European Commission: “I would highlight the need for the public and private sector to work together. We are on the threshold of a completely new time – partly under the influence of 5G – where cloud infrastructure and edge computing will be very important. We are of the strong conviction that Europe will not play its role in these new areas if we don’t have a performing and effective telecom network structure.”

Erzsebet Fitori, Group Head of EU Affairs and Relations at Vodafone Group: “We support the European Commission’s ambitious digital decade targets, which we believe coupled with the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Faculty presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the digital and green transformations of the EU. But to be successful, we must clearly acknowledge our starting point and urgently address the growing connectivity infrastructure investment gap. With targeted measures and pragmatic policy reforms, which can crowd in public-private investment, this can be achieved.”

Robert Kolthek, Vice President Regulation at Liberty Global: “Gigabit connectivity drives growth in every part of the European economy, directly benefiting European consumers. The recovery from the pandemic gives Europe the opportunity  to emerge on the other side of the crisis as a greener, more digital and more competitive society. In order to achieve these goals, it’s more important than ever for Member States to implement the best practices for accelerating deployment of very high capacity networks as outlined in the EU Connectivity Toolbox and to legislate as efficiently as possible. This means that any regulatory intervention must be appropriate and proportionate, balancing benefit against cost and potential impact on investment and innovation. Above all, legal certainty is integral to ensuring continued innovation and investment. Simply put, over-regulation or market-making likely disincentivises investment, putting the European Commission’s Digital Decade connectivity goals at risk.”

Irina Varlan, Managing Director of GIGAEurope: “Over the past decade, connectivity providers have continued to invest in network roll-out and innovations to allow for ubiquitous fixed-mobile access, faster speeds and lower latency. To close the investment gap, Europe needs a mix of private investment and public funds in the coming years.”

With GIGAEurope members already testing and trialing multi-gigabit access speeds over existing networks, it is clear that the connectivity sector in Europe is up to the challenge to meet Europe’s Digital Decade ambitions. Current providers of very high capacity networks are constantly adapting their technology roadmaps to meet, and probably exceed, the 2030 gigabit targets.
About GIGAEurope EU Presidency Event Series

The GIGAEurope EU Presidency Event Series aim to bring together the EU Council Presidency, European Commission representatives, MEPs, the connectivity industry and the civil society for a discussion on how to jointly work towards a gigabit Europe.

The first edition of the event series took place on Wednesday, 26th May. 

About GIGAEurope

GIGAEurope brings together private operators who build, operate and invest in gigabit communications networks that enable Europe’s digital connectivity. GIGAEurope members collectively provide connectivity services to over 40 million fixed broadband customers and 130 million mobile customers spanning across Europe.