In 2 years from now people will spend more time on their mobile device than they will on their pc today. The message at the EIF dinner on 23 March was clear: consumers won't wait for legislation and the only way to create a true digital single market is to embrace the mobile future.
2009 was a crisis year altogether in economic terms perhaps, but John Donahoe, CEO of eBay, said that in that same year e-commerce on eBay and PayPal grew 10 to 15%. In 2010, this year, he forecasts that it will grow yet another 20%. The driving force behind this growth is simple: the Internet offers consumers more choice to buy goods 24/7 at ever-lower prices. SMEs, thanks to new technology, can now sell beyond their local communities and reach a world audience.
When mobile commerce finally arrived everybody was surprised that it came in the shape of the Smartphone. The Smartphone allowed consumers to grab control. The technology was simply the enabler that helped small developers create the applications consumers needed to make more informed choices. eBay launched its iPhone application in December 2008 and within 12 months sold 600 million dollar in volume through it, including 100 cars.
Mike Short (Vice President, Research and Innovation, Telefonica/O2) added that we should not forget that20 years ago there were only 11.3 million mobile phones in Western Europe and today this number has grown to an impressive 4.6 billion. Today’s mobile and smart phones do not only need more bandwidth, but also partnerships in the industry to innovate in the best possible way and make services widely available. The central question is how to actually deliver the information economy.
To make the information economy real we need a Europe 2.0 approach, with more digital literacy taught in schools. The demand in new areas requires looking at how the telecoms and ICT industries should be working together. Automotive and transport should be connected to create Internet enabled cars that help safer driving and lower road congestion. Similar approaches are needed in education and skills, healthcare and assisted living vis-à-vis the ageing population, a connected democracy and an increase in confidence and trust. Obviously more spectrum is needed to deliver on this.
Roberto Viola (Chairman of the 'Radio Spectrum Policy Group') visualized the problem by saying that as we speak, one Apple a day will crash the network today. Broadband connectivity has changed from being a serious issue into an emergency. The United States have pledged to become the world leader in wireless technology and want to free 500 MHz of spectrum for broadband. The question is: what are we, in Europe, doing? If we do not focus on action we will soon have problems. If we want to avoid these problems we need to focalize the action. One element of this is to release spectrum simultaneously in all member states.
If we do not, scenarios will develop where country A offers 800 MHz service and country B does not. This is obviously a nightmare scenario for creating a sustainable business plan. At the same time, we need to inject focus into the European research program and focus on simple ideas. 800 MHz spectrum today is still tied to the agreements of the television of 40 years ago, a world that does not exist anymore.
Regulators should work together and use a collective help mechanism to get the best expertise around Europe and solve specific problems. Spectrum regulators still meet to discuss how spectrum should be used between the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands, isn't that strange in a Europe without internal borders?
Finally, there is the international dimension. Can Europe speak with one voice or not? Can we help countries by using the Lisbon treaty to escalate spectrum issues to the right level? Broadband is and will remain a hugely important matter for our society. We are talking about the future of Europe.