A major challenge for the European economy over the next five years will be to achieve the right political and regulatory environment to foster investments in new high-speed telecommunications networks, Telefonica Chairman C‚sar Alierta said today.

Alierta called on European policymakers to focus their efforts on speeding up the rollout of the next generation networks that lie at the heart of a future knowledge-based society and economy.  The first step is to urgently create a regulatory climate that stimulates infrastructure investment, he said.

Telefonica believes the challenge going forward will be to create confidence in the markets so that large-scale investments in new high-speed networks take place in Europe, where the bloc is falling behind North America and Asia.

‘The Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector is a complex ecosystem which is changing rapidly and produces constant innovation which makes it so important to modern economies,’ Alierta said. ‘But there will be no new applications and services ‘ nothing like a European Facebook or Google ‘ if we do not achieve the best state-of-the-art infrastructure for communications in Europe.’

Alierta said EU policymakers could foster an investment-friendly climate by creating the appropriate incentives for investments with a forward-looking regulatory framework.  He also called for freeing up the necessary spectrum for new mobile services as soon as possible.

The deliberalisation process has been a great European success story and resulted in the creation of today’s competitive communication markets in Europe, in which consumer prices have been constantly decreasing in the last decade.

But Alierta warned that while Europe is global leader in telecoms ‘ particularly mobile communications where the region has the highest penetration and coverage of any major market ‘ it significantly trails the USA in the development of Internet applications and Software and Asia in terms of hardware and computer manufacturing.

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