Europe Can Benefit from US Experience in Creating a Real Single Market for Mobile Communications, New ITIF Report Concludes

December 7, 2015

WASHINGTON—The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) today offered recommendations to the European Commission for its transition to a single market for mobile communications. As part of its Digital Single Market initiative, the Commission is working to integrate its 28 national mobile communications markets into a more seamless system. The ITIF report explores lessons learned by the United States in achieving a single, nationwide wireless market that can help inform a new approach to EU spectrum and wireless policy.

“The mobile digital economy is poised to have a tremendous impact on growth, productivity, and progress in the coming decades,” said ITIF Founder and President Robert D. Atkinson. “Despite being a world leader in mobile communications in the 3G era, Europe has since lagged the United States in deploying high-speed, data-intensive LTE technology. To recapture lost economic ground, Europe needs a bold new approach that vests significantly more control over spectrum policy in the European Commission. The U.S. experience where the states are largely precluded from wireless policy can offer valuable lessons for how Europe can centralize its wireless policy to capture the greatest possible benefit for EU consumers and the EU economy.”

ITIF’s new report—“Spectrum Policy and the EU Digital Single Market: Lessons from the United States”—outlines five policy recommendations that European lawmakers should adopt as they pursue a single mobile market initiative in the EU:

1. Consolidate EU spectrum management within a single centralized body, with the goal of moving spectrum allocation, service rules, and regulations away from national governments and to the Commission.

2. Support mobile industry consolidation to allow a smaller number of firms to achieve appropriate economies of scale and become EU-wide carriers.

3. Reallocate broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband to support advanced mobile networks.

4. Use technology neutral, flexible licenses that are tradeable on a secondary market to allow room for change as mobile technologies shift over time.

5. Avoid explicit market shaping beyond protecting a baseline level of competition to drive better long-term outcomes for users and for the overall evolution of the EU wireless system.

“The vision laid out by the European Commission is the right track. A unified EU framework for wireless will allow for a much more efficient industry structure,” said ITIF Telecommunications Policy Analyst Doug Brake, the report’s author. “But the Commission should not afraid to be bold and seek a major transformation of the EU wireless industry, based on EU-wide spectrum markets and EU-wide wireless carriers. Doing so will lead to lower costs per subscriber, greater investment, and larger platforms for others to innovate on top of. A true single mobile marketplace will be a boon for European businesses and consumers as we move into the 5G era.”

“Of course, there are significant political and cultural differences between the EU and United States, and we do not expect the U.S. model to be replicated wholesale. Policy should be tailored to the specific history and context of region’s industry, but 28 different sets of regulations and 28 separate spectrum markets is fragmentation in the extreme. The Commission is right to move toward a more harmonized, unified market, and we hope lessons from the U.S. experience can help bring the greatest possible economic benefit to the EU economy,” concluded Brake.

Read the report.