Open access is key to meeting Digital Agenda targets, says ECTA
Europe’s first Digital Agenda Assembly, which starts tomorrow, is a standing-room only event to see what progress the continent has made in the year since its aggressive targets were spelled out, and how to get there.
European Commission vice-chairman Neelie Kroes wants every European to have access to a broadband connection by 2013, for everyone to have 30Mbps access by 2020, and for half of them to be on 100Mbps links.
Estimates of what this will cost vary. The European Investment Bank told BrokenTelephone its “back of the envelope” calculation put the sum at between €72bn and €200bn. Other estimates put it at €300bn.
Kroes recently asked the CEOs of leading communications services providers (CSPs) for their estimates as to ways and means. So far they haven’t shown their hand.
In a video interview ahead of the event, Erzsebet Fitori, director of regulatory affairs for ECTA, a lobby group for “challenger” network operators and their suppliers, said the Digital Agenda scoreboard published recently showed wide-spread access to basic broadband, but warned that unless policy makers adopted some different ideas, Europe would miss its upper targets.
ECTA was looking for policies that increased competitive access to markets. History had shown that competition led to innovation and increased availability and affordability of services, she said.
Key to this was for “challenger operators” to have “open access” to the fibre networks of incumbent operators, she said. The implementation of existing rules on opening up such access had been “patchy” she said.
“Member states need to commit to open and competitive networks and implement the rules vigorously” she said.
Fitori said the fibre networks being laid today would be serving consumers for the next 40 or 50 years. This required efficient funding and pricing models.
ECTA members also wanted the commission’s assurance that it would not tolerate discriminatory prices and “abusive practices” by dominant operators.
Fitori said fibre to the home for everyone was unrealistic. Wireless techniques would serve the most remote consumers, she said.
ECTA welcomed recent moves to rationalise and speed up access to radio frequencies that would help operators roll out high speed broadband access. “We need them now,” Fitori said, adding the 700MHz band was well-suited to mobile broadband, and called for the unlicensed frequencies, especially in the 5GHz band, be set aside for wi-fi networks.
She called for spectrum allocation to be “pro-competitive”, non-discriminatory, and to avoid the creation or strengthening of dominant players.