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GSMA’s Bouverot sends operator-backed open letter to Kroes calling for European reform

Anne Bouverot, director general, GSMA

Anne Bouverot, director general, GSMA

The director general of the GSMA, Anne Bouverot, has sent an open letter to EC Commissioner Neelie Kroes calling for policy reform that will encourage investment in Europe’s telecoms sector. Bouverot secured endorsements from the CEOs of ten European operators with a combined European mobile customer base of almost three quarters of a billion subscriptions, according to data from Informa’s World Cellular Investors service.

The GSMA said that, despite Europe having the highest regional mobile penetration in the world, it was the only area in which revenues have declined, from €162bn in 2010 to €142bn in 2013. Despite this, the organisation said, “comprehensive policy reform” could enable the European mobile sector to drive investment, improve connectivity and enable innovation.

It is increasingly popular to compare Europe unfavourably with the US and Bouverot’s letter warned that European operators are “facing decreasing revenues and reduced market values compared with oeprators in the US and Asia,” as well as other players in the sector, for which read the internet and OS powerhouses. “This is impairing our ability to invest in the communications infrastructure needed to put Europe back on the path to growth and jobs,” she added.

Bouverot stressed the need for a regulatory overhaul that would enable operators to act unencumbered by “unnecessary layers of regulation”, drive greater harmony across the region and permit operators to consolidate to restructure the market.

She also called for “a level playing field for all”, a statement that again appeared to put internet players in her sights. Even-handed regulation “across the value chain” was needed, she said, as well as “consistent applications of rules irrespective of the technology being used, who is providing the service or where individuals are located.”

Internet players like Google and Facebook (with its recent WhatsApp acquisition) have long been developing services that compete with operators’ core service offerings but attract none of the regulation that comes with a licence to operate a network. Moreover they are driving huge levels of traffic at little or no cost to themselves.

“Operators must have the commercial freedom to develop new business models, innovate at the network and service level, and offer customised services in order to restore the investment climate and drive innovation and competition in the global marketplace,” Bouverot said.

She also called for comprehensive reform of spectrum management policies and a fresh approach to privacy and security issues to improve consumer protection.

While many within the European community look to the leading US operators as evidence that revenue improvements are possible, critics of the US suggest that competition is limited, leaving consumers with too little choice. Meanwhile Kroes’ regulatory reform has focused very much on reducing the costs that must be borne by consumers of mobile telephony.

In recent conversations with, Hannes Ametstreiter, CEO of Telekom Austria (and one of those name-checked in Bouverot’s letter) and Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent, have voiced similar opinions to those expressed by Bouverot.

The letter was endoresed by, Timotheus Höttges, CEO, Deutsche Telekom AG; Christian Salbaing, Deputy Chairman, Hutchison Whampoa Europe; Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO, Orange; Marco Patuano, CEO, Telecom Italia; César Alierta, Executive Chairman and CEO, Telefónica; Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO, Telekom Austria Group; Jon Fredrik Baksaas, President and CEO, Telenor Group and Chairman, GSMA Board; Johan Dennelind, President and CEO, TeliaSonera; Jo Lunder, CEO, VimpelCom; and Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone Group.

Liberty Global to Present at the 7th Annual Goldman Sachs European Cable andamp; Convergence Conference

Liberty Global plc (“Liberty Global”) (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB, LBTYK, LILA and LILAK) will be presenting at the 7th Annual Goldman Sachs European Cable andamp; Convergence Conference on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 10:15 a.m. EDT at the Goldman Sachs offices in London. Liberty Global CFO Charlie Bracken will be presenting. Liberty Global may make observations concerning its historical operating performance and outlook. The presentation will be webcast live at We intend to archive the webcast under the Investor Relations section of our website for approximately 30 days. Click here for more.

Cellular News

Orange includes European roaming in high-end contracts

Orange has said it has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint

Orange has said it has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint

French operator group Orange has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint. The operator has also launched an online portal to enable customers to remotely top up mobile credit for over 350 operators globally.

Orange’s inclusion of roaming services in high end tariffs is limited to what it considers customers originating from its key European markets: France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Romania, Slovakia and Luxembourg. The operator said roaming services will be included on a range of tariffs starting from €30 per month.

The move comes as the European Commission pushes to ban incoming call charges for EU citizens. However, the EC told last week that restrictions on European roaming charges are now likely to be introduced in September or October, rather than July as originally planned. In its initial proposals to reform the EU telecoms market, the European Commission intended to ban incoming call charges for roaming citizens within the region by July 1st 2014.

Orange added that it will launch LTE roaming from February for customers in France travelling to the UK, Portugal and South Korea. It said that LTE roaming will be fully available across its European footprint by the end of 2014 as well as in certain markets outside of Europe.

“Orange shares its customers’ conviction that using a mobile phone abroad should be worry-free,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO at Orange. “Today’s bold initiatives are designed to deliver on that promise, removing the need for many of our frequent roamers to even think about taking out a separate bundle.”

The operator has also launched Orange Top-Up, an online solution that enables people to remotely top-up mobile credit for customers of over 350 operators in the world.

Users can send mobile credit to a contact by entering the mobile number to be credited, select an amount and pay by credit card. An SMS is sent to the user to confirm the transaction and a personal message can be sent to the recipient to let them know their account has been topped-up.

The service is available online in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and in three currencies; Euros, US dollars and South-African rand. It is aimed at migrants who live far from their families or friends.

Last week, French rival Bouygues Telecom introduced a plan that offers subscribers  a domestic package that also includes unlimited voice and text and 3GB of data to and from all EU countries (plus several non-EU) and French overseas regions. The Sensation plan will be priced from €29.99 per month.

European telecoms reform faces delay

The European Commission has said that its proposals to reform of the EU telecoms market are unlikely to gain approval before September or October 2014

The European Commission has said that its proposals to reform of the EU telecoms market are unlikely to gain approval before September or October 2014

Further restrictions on European roaming charges are now likely to be introduced in September or October, rather than July as originally planned. In its initial proposals to reform the EU telecoms market, the European Commission intended to ban incoming call charges for roaming citizens within the region by July 1st 2014.

“We won’t have the sign off from the national governments of the EU member states in July,” an EC spokesman told to “It’ll certainly be in 2014, but it’s much more likely we’ll see it finalised in September and October.”

The spokesman said that the EC is confident that the package will remain intact structurally but admitted that it is likely that there will be some compromises made on its way to gaining approval from EU committees and member state governments.

“It won’t look exactly how we wrote it, but we’re confident that it will stay roughly together the way we wanted it and that we’ll get it finished by October,” he said.

“We’re not too concerned if that’s a little bit delayed, what matters is that we get the final agreement and we’re on track to do that in September.”

The proposals are already fully supported by the EC and in the next stage, they will be sent to the European Parliament, where various committees will examine them and offer suggestions and amendments. Then in April 2014, all 700 MEPs will take a vote on the proposals. The proposals will then be sent on to member state governments.

“The first real step is April when you get the full parliament giving a vote,” said the spokesman. “Then you know exactly what you’re negotiating with with the member states. They will then carry out those negotiations over the two months that follow.”

A qualified majority of member states – 20 out of the 28 – must vote for the proposals for them to gain approval, and the member states will decide between them when the vote will take place. The EC claims this is likely to happen at a meeting in September or October.

Once the proposals are approved, it will officially become EU law, and member states will have to fully implement the proposals.

Apple limits support for European LTE bands

The page on Apple's website outlining the iPhone 5's LTE band compatibility

Only one of the three spectrum bands supported by the European version of Apple’s iPhone 5 is a European LTE band; a decision described by one industry consultancy as “really odd”. According to Apple’s website, the new handset supports LTE bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz) and 5 (850MHz). In Europe LTE is being deployed at 2.6GHz and the European digital dividend band of 800MHz, as well as 1800MHz.

This decision could cause problems for a number of European operators that don’t have 1800MHz spectrum in any quantity. As things stand in the UK, which has been in the headlines itself this week thanks to EE’s forthcoming launch, Vodafone and O2 will not be able to make a great deal of use of the iPhone 5 when they eventually get their LTE spectrum, unless they re-farm some of what they currently use for 3G services.

“In Europe LTE is not deployed in Band 1 (2.1GHz). Furthermore Band 5 is not the European 800MHz Digital Dividend band – that would be Band 20 (CEPT 800),” said Stefan Zehle, CEO of industry consultancy Coleago. “This is really odd, perhaps Apple made a mistake in its website publication and it should read Band 20 (CEPT 800), Band 3 (1800 MHz), and Band 7 (2.6GHz). This band combination is the normal European LTE phone specification, as used for example for the Samsung Galaxy LTE model sold by Vodafone Germany and others.” – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Android continues European smartphone domination

Android handsets held two-thirds of the market share in Europe, according to latest data

The Android platform continues to dominate the European smartphone market, according to the latest data from research house Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. Google’s mobile OS has increased its market share by 20.2 per cent over the past year and now holds two-thirds of the smartphone market.

The popularity of Android handsets has risen steadily in the build up to Apple’s iPhone 5 release, which is expected to be unveiled next week, while Windows has managed to maintain its five per cent share despite a raft of new Windows 8 products being announced. However, Microsoft’s success has been achieved through heavy discounting, according to the research firm.

The US smartphone market largely mimicked the trends in Europe, where Android held 55.9 per cent of the market share, although this was 4.5 per cent less than the 60.4 per cent market share that the platform held in the same quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, Spain was the market where Android was most dominant, recording a huge 86.8 per cent of market share.

The Symbian platform continued its steady decline worldwide, most noticeably in Brazil, where it saw its 71.7 per cent market share in 2011 drop to just 22 per cent over the course of the year.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech’s data also revealed that handsets with bigger screens are becoming significantly more popular, with 29 per cent of the Android devices sold in the past 12 weeks having a screen size of over 4.5 inches.

“It is interesting to look at the impact a larger screen size has on how consumers use their smartphones, particularly as the line between tablets and smartphones becomes more blurred,” said Dominic Sunnebo, global consumer insight director at the research firm.

“Consumers who own a smartphone with a larger screen tend to be much more engaged with their device across a whole array of functions.  For example, only 19 per cent of consumers with a screen smaller than three inches download and watch videos, compared to 65 per cent when the screen is five inches or more.”

Sunnebo added that bigger screens don’t just lead to an improved consumer experience; they also play a key part in customer retention.

“ComTech data shows that the more engaged consumers are with their device, the more likely they are to stay loyal to an OS or brand when they upgrade.”

OS (Operating System) Share – Smartphone Sales (Key European Markets):

12 w/e 07 Aug 11 12 w/e 05 Aug 12 Change
% % %
GB 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 6.7 1.5 -5.2
RIM 21.2 9.3 -11.9
iOS 20.8 21.8 1.0
Windows 2.2 4.3 2.1
Android 48.3 62.4 14.1
Bada 0.7 0.5 -0.2
Other 0.2 0.1 -0.1
Germany 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 16.1 5.3 -10.8
RIM 1.5 0.5 -1.0
iOS 22.3 13.3 -9.0
Windows 6.3 7 0.7
Android 50.0 72.2 22.2
Bada 2.7 0.7 -2.0
Other 1.1 0.9 -0.2
France 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 11.8 2.6 -9.2
RIM 9.6 10.1 0.5
iOS 17.5 11.7 -5.8
Windows 2.4 4.4 2.0
Android 47.5 61.9 14.4
Bada 10.7 8.8 -1.9
Other 0.6 0.6 0.0
Italy 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 34.7 12.6 -22.1
RIM 4.7 3.7 -1.0
iOS 20.8 15.1 -5.7
Windows 4.5 7.7 3.2
Android 30.7 58.6 27.9
Bada 3.9 2.3 -1.6
Other 0.7 0.0 -0.7
Spain 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 18.9 2.3 -16.6
RIM 13.0 6.3 -6.7
iOS 8.0 2.9 -5.1
Windows 2.4 1.4 -1.0
Android 57.7 86.8 29.1
Bada 0.0 0.0 0.0
Other 0.0 0.3 0.3

Other key markets:

12 w/e 07 Aug 11 12 w/e 05 Aug 12 Change
% % %
US 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 0.6 0.0 -0.6
RIM 6.5 1.5 -5.0
iOS 26.8 35.2 8.4
Windows 3.4 3.3 -0.1
Android 60.4 55.9 -4.5
Bada 0.0 0.0 0.0
Other 2.4 4.2 1.8
Australia 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 12.3 1.5 -10.8
RIM 2.3 1.5 -0.8
iOS 38.1 28.2 -9.9
Windows 3.1 4.7 1.6
Android 42.7 62.8 20.1
Bada 0.3 0.2 -0.1
Other 1.2 1.1 -0.1
Brazil 100.0% 100.0% 0.0
Symbian 71.7 22.0 -49.7
RIM 4.0 4.5 0.5
iOS 3.2 7.5 4.3
Windows 4.6 14.9 10.3
Android 14.0 46.8 32.8
Bada 0.4 3.3 2.9
Other 2.2 1.1 -1.1 – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Apple Settling Price-Fixing Accusations on European E-Book Sales

Apple and four book publishers are set to settle an anti-trust investigation after they agreed to drop requirements that retailers do not price e-books lower than prices available on the iTunes platform. Click here for more.


European operators could save £426m a year through improved online self care

A third of mobile subscribers only ever call their mobile operator because they failed to solve a problem through its self-care portal, according to WDS' research

A third of mobile subscribers only ever call their mobile operator because they failed to solve a problem through its self-care portal, according to WDS’ research

A third of mobile subscribers only ever call their mobile operator because they failed to solve a problem through its self-care portal, according to research published this week. As a result operators across Europe are spending an estimated €510m (£426m) per year in unnecessary support costs.

The findings come from customer care services provider WDS, a subsidiary of Xerox. It found that 32 per cent of customers calling their operator were only doing so because they had been unable to find an online resolution to their problem either due to inaccurate, incomplete, hard-to-find or non-existent information.

This represents a waste of resources for operators, since the average cost of resolving a customer issue online is just a fraction of handling a telephone call to a call centre, the firm said.

“Operators’ self-care websites are often managed independently of the contact centre,” explained Tim Deluca-Smith, VP of marketing at WDS.

“This means they have very little exposure to the real support issues customers are facing and are typically only able to resolve 40 per cent of problems effectively. Customers who then go on to call their operator add over half a billion euros in support costs. This is a cost that’s entirely preventable. Online self-care is designed to reduce support costs, not add to them.”

The firm found that the most effective self-care sites had the potential to deflect as much as 50 per cent of an operator’s support traffic away from more expensive contact centre channels.

You can now register for the free webinar in association with WDS outlining a seven-step approach to effective call avoidance on December 10, at 3.00pm GMT.

European Commission urges Spanish regulator to review broadband access fees

The European Commission has formally asked the Spanish telecoms regulator to withdraw or amend its proposal setting the regulated prices which Telefonica can charge other operators who want to sell broadband services. Click here for more.


Fujitsu to launch European smartphone play

Fujitsu's Arrow smartphone, launched in Japan earlier this year

Japanese electronics vendor Fujitsu has announced its intention to launch smartphones and tablets into the European market. The firm has a 20 per cent share of the Japanese mobile device market, according to Robert Pryke, director of Fujitsu’s European device business.

Pryke said that the vendor is currently in talks with European operators over potential distribution deals.

“Details of timings and devices that will be made available in European countries will be dependent on the outcome of ongoing negotiations with operators across Europe, including those with a pan-European footprint and those that provide services in just one territory. The company is looking for the right partnerships that will lead to steady and sustained growth,” Pryke said.

Fujitsu’s move comes at a time when the large operator groups are focused on reducing the numbers of device providers they work with, rather than increasing them. Last November, Matthew Key, head of Telefónica Digital announced that the operator is looking to cut its device range in half, while Vodafone’s head of device marketing Peter Becker-Pennrich recently told that just eight vendors supply 98 per cent of the devices that Vodafone ranges, and that he expects this number to come down “quite a bit”.

Research by Accenture suggests that operators cannot get the best unit price from vendors until volumes rise above half a million.

“The research that we’ve carried out into the prices that manufacturers charge operators shows that, until you hit between 500,000 – 750,000 units, you don’t reach a manufacturer’s best price,” said Dan Adams, a partner at Accenture. “So operators have to set their portfolio so that a good chunk of it gets over that number per device. If they don’t, they’ll be paying more than the competition and, while they might have a better range of handsets that’s more adjusted to the local market, consumers are not going to pay more for a handset they can get cheaper elsewhere.” – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion