|Issue:||Europe I 2011|
|Topic:||Mobilising Europe’s digital agenda|
Martin Whitehead is the Director of GSMA Europe, which is the European arm of the GSMA – the global body that represents the worldwide mobile communications industry. Before joining the GSMA, Mr Whitehead ran his own business that advised companies on how to shape EU policy and regulation. Prior to that, Mr Whitehead worked with the United States Department of Commerce helping American companies and US government representatives engage EU policy makers to improve the operating environment for US companies in Europe. Mr Whitehead spent his early Brussels career in the EU institutions, including a spell with the European Commission’s Single Currency Communication Task Force. Martin Whitehead graduated in Economics and Sociology from Bristol University in the UK.
The European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe seeks to harnesses ICT’s to contribute to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Advanced, high-speed, mobile broadband, and smart ICT solutions, including embedded mobile applications, will enable Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy. Mobile will also help deliver public services, reduce costs and improve the efficiency of healthcare. Near Field Communications will enable a wide range of mobile payments and services. The mobile industry is working to meet the challenges identified in the Digital Agenda.
As Europe strives to recover from the financial crisis, information and communication technologies (ICT) are set to play a pivotal role in both the return to economic growth and in helping the region address longer-term challenges, such as rising healthcare costs and climate change. Launched by the European Commission in May 2010, the Digital Agenda for Europe is designed to ensure that the region fully harnesses the socio-economic potential of ICT, and to contribute to achieving Europe’s 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The ‘Agenda’ outlines seven priority areas for action, identifying objectives and challenges for each: creating a digital single market; greater interoperability; boosting Internet trust and security; much faster Internet access; more investment in research and development; enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion; and applying ICT to address challenges facing society. Mobile technologies and services can help Europe meet its Digital Agenda objectives. The late 20th century saw key transformative developments in mobile and the Internet; the 21st century is seeing the convergence of these two in the mobile Internet. Adding rich applications and broadband capabilities to mobile’s existing strengths of connectivity, ubiquity and personalisation reinforces mobile’s role as a key enabler of Europe’s Digital Agenda. Delivering fast Internet access Mobile broadband can make a particularly significant contribution. Our members continue to invest in network capability, and to increase connectivity and broadband access for consumers on the move and at home. Their customers are certainly responding. In the last twelve months alone, the number of EU-wide mobile broadband connections using high-speed packet access (HSPA) technology has risen by 67 per cent from 69 million to 115 million. Developments in mobile technology will continue to drive the rapid uptake of mobile broadband across Europe and facilitate the development of new services and applications. Migration towards HSPA is delivering data speeds of up to 20Mbps and the move to ‘Long-Term Evolution’ or LTE technology will take speeds much higher and help to use scarce radio spectrum more efficiently. LTE networks are now being rolled out in Europe, and Wireless Intelligence predicts that LTE connections in the European Union will reach 74 million by 2015, equivalent to 11 per cent of all mobile connections in the region. Data traffic on mobile networks is growing exponentially as consumers and business users increasingly turn to smartphones and connected laptops to access the Internet, email, business applications and social networking services. This trend will continue with mobile broadband subscriptions becoming the key driver for broadband uptake. The availability of the right spectrum will be critical to meeting this surging demand. The European Commission recognises this; it is encouraging all Member States of the European Union (EU) to free up the 800 MHz digital dividend spectrum band for wireless broadband by 2013. Mobile broadband in the 800MHz band, combined with the liberalisation of the 900MHz band through the amended GSM Directive, is critical to helping meet the challenge of what some are calling the ‘Data Tsunami’ challenge. Spectrum at these frequencies is also the key to connecting citizens and businesses in those parts of the European Union that might otherwise miss out on digital opportunities. This brings us back to one of the key milestones of the Digital Agenda: basic broadband coverage for all EU citizens by 2013. Helping address societal issues However, mobile is far more than just an access technology for the Internet. Mobile technologies are already being used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and costs across a wide range of sectors of the economy by using SIM cards and radio modules embedded in machines and devices to deliver smart traffic management and logistics, smart power grids and meters, and smart buildings. Other uses – such as teleworking, using telepresence to manage heating or lighting, real-time freight management, and dematerialisation of physical goods – mean that by 2020 mobile could reduce emissions in other sectors by more than 4.5 times the mobile industry’s own carbon footprint. That is the equivalent of taking one of every three cars off the road. The mobile industry is also working to better manage its own energy efficiency. In November 2010 the GSMA launched a Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) benchmarking service that aims to unite the industry behind a common methodology to identify areas where efficiencies can be achieved. As mobile becomes the dominant Internet access technology, people will be more likely to connect using a mobile rather than a fixed line – the mobile platform is becoming an increasingly important means to deliver public services. In the case of European Union healthcare expenditures, mobile operators can help deliver significant cost savings by improving the efficiency of the healthcare industry and raising the quality of service. Mobile can deliver telemedicine services to the chronically ill and remind patients when to take medication or go to a doctor’s appointment. It can also enable remote monitoring using machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and support the secure storage and transfer of medical data from anywhere to anywhere. Enhancing trust and security The protection of personal data is an essential component of the Digital Agenda: trust and security. Here the focus is on building confidence in digital technologies and services so that EU citizens and businesses are ready and willing to seize their digital opportunities. With mobile, it is clear that customers seek reliable privacy, regardless of where they use applications or what services or technologies are used. The mobile industry is working to address these challenges and to ensure that user privacy is respected and the security of their data protected. The focus is on helping define a sustainable relationship between users and suppliers of digital services that enhances user privacy and strengthens confidence and trust in the broader digital society. The mobile sector is leading the development of specific tools to allow parents to protect children online and on mobile. Since its launch in 2007, the European Framework for Safer Mobile Use by Younger Teenagers and Children has led to the roll-out of codes of conduct on safer mobile use in 27 EU Member States. In addition, the mobile industry is significantly contributing to the fight against illegal child sexual abuse images online. Through the Mobile Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Content, mobile operators have committed to creating significant barriers to the misuse of mobile networks and services for hosting, accessing, or profiting from illegal child sexual abuse images. Driving innovation and interoperability Interoperability and innovation are also at the heart of the Digital Agenda, and both are critical elements in the mobile space. Indeed interoperability is central to the GSM standard; it allows end-users to enjoy the same experience for voice and data services, no matter where they are in the world. The GSMA continues to work with its partners in the mobile ecosystem to ensure that new applications, capabilities and devices will work together and offer consumers and businesses a seamless experience. One area where interoperability and innovation come together is Near Field Communications (NFC), which will be a pivotal technology in enabling mobile payments. However, NFC is not just about payment. It will put the mobile phone at the centre of a wide range of innovative services and applications, such as mobile ticketing, mobile couponing and secure access, and will contribute to smart homes, offices and cities. There are now more than 20 NFC pilot projects underway around the world and many more are planned. Enabling the ‘Digital Single Market’ With over 622 million active mobile connections in Europe, each with an individual billing relationship with an operator, the mobile industry is in a unique position to help create mechanisms to support the growth of the Digital Single Market. The mobile medium can, for example, be a major conduit for eMoney, which would facilitate commerce and cross-border travel through ease and speed of ticketing. By storing a consumer’s credit/debit card within the mobile handset’s SIM card, or enabling consumers to use their existing billing relationships with operators to make payments for goods and services, mobile phones can be used to complete transactions. Mobile Internet access also enables consumers to exercise greater choice in their purchases, with easy and ubiquitous information about competing offers for a good or service, either in nearby locations or on the Internet. Mobilising Europe’s digital agenda A Digital Single Market based on fast Internet connections and interoperable applications will spur innovation, economic growth and improvements in the daily lives of citizens and businesses. Smart ICT solutions, including embedded mobile applications, will act as a crucial enabler in Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy. The mobile industry is playing its part in meeting the challenges identified in the Digital Agenda by delivering fast Internet access, enhancing trust and security, enabling the digital single market, driving innovation and interoperability, and helping address key societal issues such as healthcare and climate change. In short, we are mobilising Europe’s Digital Agenda.