3G changed the telecom markets and paved the way for new services. 4G changed the logic of telecom into the information society. 5G will mean a change in both the structures and the nature of our industries and economies.
The introduction of 3G was a huge modernisation. It was a revolution for mobile telecom and gave Europe the lead. Mobile telephony was suddenly a popular phenomenon, creating new opportunities and new accessibility. Today there are more mobile phone subscriptions in the world than human beings. It has created universal connectivity. Europe was in the lead of this development but lost it.
4G is digitalisation. Old services in new structures and new services that we couldn’t foresee. New devices such as tablets and smartphones are a function of these new information technologies and the Internet is becoming a base for most sectors and industries of our societies.
This development is crucial for the competitiveness of our economies. And Europe is lagging behind in the deployment of 4G. Other parts of the world – such as the US, Japan, South Korea – are as much as four times more rapid in developing the use of mobile broadband.
5G will be crucial because it is the full industrialisation. It will be transformational for everything from the transport sector to the car industry as well as health industry, entertainment and media and it will change the structures of production as well as the criteria for productivity and marketing.
In order to take the lead in the digital economy we need to do a lot.
What we today call cyber security must be the security and defence of our economies, production and supply chains as well as for the credibility of banking and trade and for the protection of our private lives.
Data protection and cyber security must go hand in hand with the development of new services and be based upon our own actions.
Regulations and legislation must be technology neutral. The European Union must adapt its legislation regarding IPR, services, copyrights, VAT and sales legislation to the 21st century rather than keeping those of the last. All this is complicated but it must be done.
It will be much easier if we decide to take a decisive step and take the lead in launching and deploying the nets of 5G. Europe should be in the lead, in a harmonised action where the leading Member states must be the template and where the aim must be to make the European Union the leading 5G economy of the world.
It will require much more competition between different actors, European markets and trans-European nets, by coordination, harmonisation or by market development. It will require the combination of economy of scale integrated in competition over the borders.
The release and the coordination of the 700MHz band – now finally proposed by Commission – will be a crucial and formative first step in order to live up to these challenges.
When we will have the lead in 5G and the best capacities, the momentum and magnitude of change will help us with the reforms needed to take the full benefit of the digital industrialisations that we now are up to.
To take the lead on 5G is one of the few single issues where we can take explicit decisions, not only define goals and targets, that will bring back growth, leadership, innovations and competitiveness for the European economy.
The Commission must be tough and forward looking and so must the European Parliament, in order to convince hesitant Member states that Europe means more in the digital era than ever.
We need to change the paradigm and change the course. A European digital market has to be seen as an immense advantage rather than a threat.
As an active member of the Italian “Internet Bill of Rights” Commission, the Commission that is trying to codify and outline “rules and rights” of the Internet with the intention to make it more open and accessible, I figured out the real debate is not about “rules and rights” but investments in digital, innovation, and in a truly single digital market.
Having a look around on what’s going on in Europe, and not only in Italy, I’m deeply convinced the continent has completely lost the world leadership in mobile technology.
We Europeans created the Global System for Mobile Communications that became a global standard. Right now, unfortunately, we lost that competitiveness; most innovation in information and communications technology comes from the other side of the Atlantic.
And that’s why we don’t have such a vibrant capital market as in America, and at the same time, we don’t create the conditions for our startups to become great corporations.
We need to change the paradigm and change the course. A European digital market has to be seen as an immense advantage rather than a threat. We also don’t need barriers of any kind because such barriers have a habit of outliving their usefulness.
How can we let the next Google, Facebook or Amazon be European and not American? The recent Obama’s statements against Europe don’t help and we need to find our way.
In a continent where there’s an important digital divide between nations, where you can find 28 different data privacy and copyright laws, where U.S. companies are going to remove services in some countries because of their local laws, what are the solutions to bridge the gap and create growth and jobs with innovation?
I guess the only answer possible is going ahead with the Digital Agenda explained by the Digital Commissioner Gunther Oettinger. Everybody right now is focused on Net Neutrality and the openness of the Internet, but Europe’s Internet is already open.
If you want to take your business online today, you can. We must not follow the current US approach led by President Obama and FCC. The real point, as ever, is to create the conditions to stimulate investments and entrepreneurship. To create a digital single market with efficient, modern policies across the continent that remove the burdens of becoming the next Google, Facebook or Amazon.
Half of European productivity growth over the past fifteen years was already driven by information and communications technologies and this trend is likely to accelerate. The European Commission identified seven priorities on which the first is creating a “Single Digital Market”.
As Oettinger said in February at the Berlinale “I want Europe to understand the advantages of digitalization. In an age where consumers are spending most of their time online, we should work together to ensure that our creative potential and European diversity are preserved and are accessible for everyone”.
That said, Italy is doing its part and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi pointed out we need to increase the digitalization of our country, beginning from the public administration, and the challenge is not against American telecoms or OTT but to create the right conditions to bring back Europe in the Olympus of the digital innovation.
This column was originally published on E!Sharp