Exclusively written for the European Sting by Mr Víctor Calvo-Sotelo, Secretary of State for Telecommunication and Society Information in Spain, Spanish Ministry of Industry.
The Mobile World Congress constitutes the most important international event on mobile technologies, gathering renowned speakers such as chairs of major telecommunications operators, equipment suppliers and leading software development companies. Today the world is changing fast towards a digital economy, and this congress reflects this new environment in which policy and regulation play a major role.
We are very proud to host this Congress in Barcelona. The Spanish Pavilion in the Mobile World Congress it is divided into two areas: one for companies booths and a second space for networking and presentations. More than 60 companies have participated through activities.
Mobile technology has continuously spurred innovation. At the end of 2003, there were a little over one billion unique subscribers, meaning that just one under six people had subscribed to a mobile service. Today, this figure has increased to almost 3.7 billion unique subscribers: more than half of the world population.
Together with this spectacular rise in the use of mobile networks, we have seen a race to achieve higher speeds, broader coverages and more advanced mobile technologies, from 2G to LTE and in a few years 5G. Smartphones have transformed this industry, bringing new opportunities for economic and social interaction, and the mobile ecosystem has become a major platform for innovation and entrepreneurship in the twenty first century.
Mobile industry is at the very center of the new economy. According to GSMA, it created more than 13 million direct jobs in 2014 and more than 11 million indirect jobs, contributing to global GDP with more than 3.8 percent. As digitization continues, this contribution is expected to rise, fostering economic growth, creating new job opportunities and promoting a true and systematic digital transformation.
2014 has been a year full of changes and progress both in Spain and on a global scale. After three years of intense reforms, the Spanish economy has left recession behind and has grown for the first time since the crisis began.
At the close of 2014, year-on-year growth stood at 2%, the fastest rate seen in the last six years. Employment recovered in the last quarter by 2.4% compared to one year ago.
Digital and mobile technologies are helping to achieve this economic success. Spain’s ICT and digital content sector employs close to 400.000 people and this market accounts for 88 billion euros.
2014 has been also an accelerated year digital wise; a year that has brought renewed investment and competition. For example, more than 7.5 million homes were covered with FTTH networks, reaching more than 14 million homes. In Spain, four out of five phones are smart, and four out of five Internet users, access through a mobile connection. More than 23 million of Spanish citizen are active users of mobile applications.
Service convergence is a meaningful factor on the Spanish market: 95% of the market offer is packetized. This triple-play offer has also fostered the consolidation processes Spain has lived in the last 2 years.
In addition, all major mobile operators have started LTE deployments, reaching now more than 70% of the population. The release of the 800 MHz digital dividend band at the end of this month will foster further deployments in LTE networks.
Spanish Government is promoting this continuous innovation through the Digital Agenda for Spain, a 2.4 billion euro strategy for the development of the digital economy and society, and also through the development of a new General Telecommunications Act.
The Law, approved with broad consensus by more than 95% of votes in the Parliament, simplifies the deployment of networks by cutting red tape, and provides a reinforced market unity for telecommunications.
During 2015, we will continue developing our Digital Agenda, with a strong focus on R&D, the extension of broadband to underserved areas, and the promotion of digital technologies across small and medium enterprises. In addition, we will deliver new initiatives aimed to extend the impact of mobile and digital technologies to new frameworks, such as smart cities, industry 4.0, and an ambitious nation-wide program to connect schools and education facilities to ultra-fast broadband.
While national public involvement is needed to encourage the extension of digital advantages to the majority of the population, there are broader challenges that need to be tackled in a supra-regional manner. We must work to encourage the digitalization of the economy, and to ensure that the rights of citizens and business, included in the acquis communautaire, remain fully protected in the new digital world.
Other challenges include the adoption of a regulatory framework that promotes investments and provides a level playing field for all market players, the update of intellectual property rights for digital society, the establishment of a data protection framework, or the search for a balanced tax system among all the ecosystem players that prevents the erosion of tax bases.
Europe must play a leading role in this revolution, and respond to the challenges with a single and distinguished voice. To this aim, the European Union should first complete the regulation for a Telecom Single Market, and then adopt a fast track towards a Digital Single Market: a digital shared area that enables the exchange of goods and services, and that contributes to increase innovation and competitiveness, and thus to economic growth and employment.
Europe should not act alone. We need to coordinate our response with other regions and economies, because the digital world knows no borders.
To promote dialogue among regions on the construction of the Digital Single Market, Spain has issued a non-paper with our position, which is available at the website spanishdigitalposition.gob.es.
We are truly living times of disruptive transformations affecting us all. The challenges are great, so let’s move forward together.
About the author
Víctor Calvo-Sotelo is the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Information Society in Spain. His public policies are focused in implementing the Digital Agenda for Spain and has taken part actively in annual Mobile World Congress with public resources and with the presence of Spain in GSMA organization and Foundation Barcelona Mobile World Capital.
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