Key Takeaways from GSMA Mobile360 EU

Posted on 26th September 2018

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and former European Commissioner and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti were among the panellists at the 18 September EU instalment of the GSMA’s Mobile360 event. Chaired by Politico’s Brussels playbook author Florian Eder, discussions were laced with Brexit undertones — and concluded that the mobile industry needed new ideas to drive revenue growth.

Monti and Vestager encouraged the robust application of EU rules to uphold the integrity of the Single Market. They emphasised the importance of the ‘indivisible’ four freedoms of the Single Market — goods, services, capital and people — rationalising the EU’s hard line regarding the Brexit negotiations and pre-empting the diplomatic farce of Salzburg. With eyes firmly on the 2019 European Parliament elections, both Monti and Vestager agreed that more needed to be done to translate the economic benefits of the Single Market into language which voters understand.

Perhaps the most interesting comments from the discussion came from Monti. Reflecting on the significant downsides of Brexit, for both the UK and EU, Monti predicted one considerable upside for Brussels: the ability to push ahead with coordination and harmonisation of tax rules at the EU level, something repeatedly vetoed by the UK as a member.

After the coffee break, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel issued a call for a strong regional approach to AI and outlined the three dimensions of the EU’s AI strategy: increasing investments to boost the EU’s technological and industrial capacity as well as AI uptake across sectors; preparing for ensuing socio-economic changes; and ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework.

To realise this vision, the Commission is prepared to increase investment by €1.5 billion over the next three years. Alongside the funding, the High-Level Group on AI will publish ethics guidelines and the Commission will release a coordinated plan on AI, both by the end of the year.

The event closed with an industry panel looking at trends for the EU mobile economy in the years ahead. The GSMA has already argued, in their 2018 annual report, The Mobile Economy Europe, that revenue growth for mobile operators over the next five years is set to stabilise, while growth will not be spectacular. As a result, the panel agreed, operators are turning to new technologies and looking across the mobile ecosystem to identify areas where revenues can be maximised, such as IoT networks and AI technology. The latter can be used to store consumer data, improve customer service, lower costs, and drive sales.

We might also expect more movement from operators into the platform ecosystem, where over-the-top service providers have established a successful monopoly on lucrative customer data. A key topic for the next Commission will be whether policy and regulatory change is needed to address this imbalance.

Author: Matt Allison, Public Policy Manager, Access Partnership

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