BT has released research that claims huge benefits to the European economy if telecoms regulation was harmonised across the continent, allowing more consistent IT contracts and services for multinational companies.
The paper, entitled Productivity, Growth and Jobs: How Telecoms Regulation Can Support European Businesses, suggests Europe's economy could benefit by up to €1,300bn over the next 20 years "with the development of seamless pan-European electronic communications services".
The study was carried out by Indepen Consulting and has backing from BT, the International Telecommunications Users Group (Intug) and the European Virtual Private Network Users Association (EVUA).
Nick White, vice chairman of Intug, said: "Business users simply cannot obtain a single contract for fixed or mobile services with similar service levels in all member states. Instead they have to deal with a patchwork of inconsistent arrangements. This hinders the full use of IT applications to improve supply-chain management and re-engineer business processes on a pan-EU basis, often resulting in only partial implementation."
The European Commission is keen on the idea of creating a "super-regulator" to oversee and potentially veto national telecoms regulators in Europe—an idea that has met with strong resistance from national regulators such as Ofcom. One of the Commission's chief goals in this is the harmonisation of telecoms services—particularly things such as service levels and ubiquitous broadband access—across the continent.
As a company that offers IT and telecoms services across many European countries, BT is now stepping up its support for such reforms. A statement from BT said: "As EU ministers gather for the informal Competitiveness Council meeting on 14 April they should be acutely aware that the current telecoms regulatory regime is not supporting the international competitiveness of EU businesses."
Luis Alvarez, BT's president for EMEA and Latin America, said the Indepen study showed "a shift in mindset is required on the part of policy-makers".
Alvarez added: "Competitive broadband services for private consumers are certainly an important part of building a European knowledge economy. But the current review of the EU telecoms framework must give equal attention to the different needs of multinational business customers which account for around 35 per cent of EU GDP."
An Ofcom statement said: "Ofcom is aware of the importance of communications services to business consumers, [stimulating] innovation and productivity, [which] in turn benefits consumers in general."
It added: "Ofcom believes that the best way to improve such innovation and competition is to facilitate choice and competition and, through the European Regulators Group (ERG), we are continuing work to ensure consistency of approach in the determination and implementation of regulatory remedies that will help to open up communications services markets throughout Europe."