By Fred Huet, MD of Greenwich Consulting.
Cast your eye over the major developments in the mobile space and one thing stands out – while the European market remains competitive, acquisitive and brings new innovative services to the market, it is not the home of mobile innovation anymore.
Consumers here retain a relatively healthy appetite for the latest products and services, but that appetite is now being fed by brands from Asia and the US.
On a number of fronts, Europe has fallen dramatically behind.
Ten years ago Nokia and Ericsson were still dominant players in the handset market, but that is no longer the case.
The recent launch of the Galaxy S3 from Samsung – the largest manufacturer of handsets in the world – showcased just how far our home-grown companies have to go in order to catch-up.
When it comes to the device market, Europe is being squeezed out of the market by Apple from the West, and Samsung and HTC from the East.
The same is true on the 4G front, as the Eastern hemisphere continues to set the pace, pulling away from the West at a terrifying pace.
For a number of years we have looked East, to the likes of China, Japan and South Korea, for examples of rapidly growing mobile economies that were being driven by investment in high-speed connectivity.
The latest of these announcements came just last month when China Mobile unveiled to the world its vision to have a total of 200,000 TD-LTE base stations by 2013.
Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile, went further to claim that his company now has the ability to build as many 4G base stations as it wants in a short period of time.
An impressive statement of intent, and a sure-fire indicator that they are currently leaps and bounds ahead of Europe when it comes to investments in high-speed connectivity.
Of course, it is worth bearing in mind that, due to the lack of legacy infrastructure and relatively open market in many Eastern, it is easier to innovate in these countries as there is less competition and less existing investment.
But Britain serves as a painful case in point for the rest of Europe.
The fact that the 4G spectrum auction is earmarked for the end of this year throws into stark contrast how far behind the curve the country is.
It is hoped Vodafone and 02’s recent network sharing agreement will accelerate the deployment of 4G connectivity, but in reality this will remain some way off while the partnership continues to focus on maintaining and improving the existing 2G and 3G infrastructure.
The British market has succeeded in grinding itself to a painful halt when it comes to developing its cutting-edge infrastructure.
This highlights the vicious circle in which the European telecoms industry finds itself – how to level the playing field and achieve the necessary investment when there are faster growing markets with lower barriers to entry, where it is simply easier to do business.
Ultimately, Europe must look inwards and ensure that delays around spectrum allocations and similar roadblocks are, as much as possible, dealt with to ensure the discrepancy between it and the rest of the world grows no larger.
This is not just a matter of being able to download online video quicker or surf the mobile web faster – it is a question of economic growth and attracting investment, which means it should be a top-level priority for the business community just as much as the telecoms community.
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