In a report published Monday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recommended that the European Commission (EC) look westward to the United States for lessons in developing a unified wireless market across the European Union (EU).
Titled, Spectrum Policy and the EU Digital Single Market: Lessons from the United States, the ITIF report urges the EC to transfer spectrum allocation functions and the promulgation of related service rules and other regulations “away from national governments and to the [European] Commission.” According to the ITIF, the establishment of a centralized body with regulatory authority over telecommunications is one important lesson the EC can take from the U.S., which also boasts the benefits of scale, uniform wireless regulation, and “national spectrum markets with [a] permissive merger policy.” Stressing that the current fragmented market structure in the EU “certainly plays a substantial role in its slow adoption of 4G” wireless broadband services, the ITIF recommended that, as part of its effort to develop a single digital market, “the EU should enable considerable consolidation in its mobile industry to allow firms to achieve appropriate economies of scale.” The goal of such consolidation, the ITIF said, is to “eventually see dynamic competition among four to six firms covering virtually all of Europe.”
The report also calls for allocation of additional low-band spectrum resources for mobile broadband and says the EU should “look to the U.S. incentive auction as a potential mechanism to ease uniform reallocation of spectrum to mobile broadband.” To further boost broadband deployment, and to set the stage for new services, the report also endorses “technology neutral, flexible licenses that are tradable on a secondary market to allow room for change as mobile technologies shift over time.” Finally, to “drive better long-term outcomes for users,” the report advises the EU to avoid “explicit market shaping beyond protecting a baseline level of competition” and to refrain from imposing regulations “with a narrow focus on static measures like the number of competitors or consumer prices.”
Emphasizing that “Europe needs a bold new approach,” ITIF President Robert Atkinson told reporters: “the U.S. experience . . . can offer valuable lessons for how Europe can centralize its wireless policy to capture the greatest possible benefits for EU consumers and the EU economy.”