In recent years, media and telecom regulators have all too often focused on pricing and wholesale access intervention as the instrument of choice to guarantee consumer benefit. Such an approach is the wrong choice at a time where Europe desperately needs to restart its long-term investments in next generation gigabit and 5G networks.
Every now and then however, a regulatory intervention comes by which resets the business model for the industry, creating lots of tangible consumer benefit, without causing undue transfer of benefits between companies. The ‘content portability’ regulation appears to be just that. Judging from enthusiastic consumer reactions across Europe, this one has been a great success. And yes, all content providers and distributors had to adapt their contractual arrangements to make it possible, but seemingly without major practical implications or financials consequences.
The proliferation of mobile devices—laptops, tablets and smartphones—combined with the rise of digital services such as online television and video-on-demand is changing the way we consume media. All members of the family want to switch seamlessly between devices, and enjoy easy access to their subscriptions from home or when they’re on the move.
All of our customers have long called for the ability to take their mobile content with them as they travel to other European nations. And kudos to the Commission for coming through, because from April 1st 2018, EU Regulation made “content portability” possible.
The Regulation is the outcome of close collaboration between EU institutions, European companies and stakeholders. It is great news for consumers and a very tangible step toward Europe’s vision for a Digital Single Market.
Slowly but surely regulators are starting to see the significance of such ‘non-price competition’ in the telecom industry. Our customers no longer buy a telephone line, a broadband connection or a television channel package. They buy ‘an experience’, a seamless service which needs to be reliable and functional anytime and anywhere. That’s why we all keep adding speeds, apps, customer care, WiFi connectivity and other features to keep them happy.
In several countries, for instance, operators have opened millions of WiFi hotspots in addition to mobile broadband. In those countries the price per megabit may still be higher, but the average household pays less for connectivity, thanks to all those hotspots.
These investments produce long-term tangible benefits not just for those individual customers, but for society at large as well. The builders of Europe’s gigabit networks deserve credit for making these capital-intensive commitments for the next generation.
Broadband prices still make an easy target for simple short-term populist attacks and newspaper headlines. It is the total experience that counts, however, and the long-term investments towards a gigabit future. We need more political leaders and regulatory authorities with the courage to recognize that.