Europe needs a pro-investment mobile regulatory framework


Frédéric Pujol
Head of radio technologies & spectrum practice, IDATE DigiWorld

IDATE has just released a report on “Mobile operators’ investments”

This paper, published with the support of Ericsson and Qualcomm, investigates the level of mobile revenues, investments (Capex) and usage in Europe, as well as the interrelation between those metrics. The study compares the EU5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK) with the other world mobile leaders, namely the USA, Japan and South Korea.

The results show that Europe is falling behind other regions in the use of mobile technology to benefit businesses and consumers and may be jeopardizing the region’s future ability to fully take advantage of evolving wireless technologies. The relative decline of revenue in recent years for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) appears to be due to policy decisions aimed at maximizing short-term consumer benefits at the expense of long-term investment incentives. The data suggest this strategy is backfiring. The lower revenues in Europe have deterred MNOs from investing, which in turn delays the roll-out of networks and the adoption of services by consumers. Consequently, the unit costs of some services to consumers are higher than in other regions.

Investment in mobile communication infrastructure creates local employment and significantly contributes to growth, as an enabling factor for the digitalisation of other industries.

The Digital Single Market initiative is an opportunity to adopt a pro-investment and pro-innovation mobile regulatory framework, enabling Europe to lead in mobile communication through its attractive market size, growth potential and technology expertise. The findings and data of this study suggest consumers, businesses and individual European economies will benefit from policy makers’ adoption of a balanced regulatory framework that encourages investment in mobile infrastructure and technologies.

> Download the report for free


DigiWorld Summit 2015

IDATE will contribute to the debate at the upcoming DigiWorld Summit on 17, 18 and 19 November (Montpellier): “Digital Infrastructure” with:
Michel COMBES, COO, Altice
Thierry BOHNOMME, Senior executive Vice President, Orange Business Group
Santiago Fernandez VALBUENA, Group Strategy Officer, Telefonica
Alain FERRASSE-PALE, President & Managing director, Nokia France

Information & Registration:




Filed under: LTE, Mobile, Telecom No Comments

VOIP and instant messaging


Vincent Bonneau
Director of the Innovation Business unit, IDATE

VOIP and instant messaging have not harmed EU telcos



IDATE has today published a new report, which shows:

• The introduction of VOIP and instant messaging have not harmed traditional European telcos and associated overall revenues

• In fact, there appears to be a small net benefit: losses to SMS revenues have been balanced by overall increases in revenue from data-tariffs -- driven by demand for services such as VOIP and instant messaging

• While there have undoubtedly been tough challenges for traditional telcos in Europe over the last 10 years, this report shows the biggest challenges have come from EU regulation and internal competition in the telecom industry, especially for voice calls (mobile termination, roaming, transition of telcos to managed VOIP, etc…)

The report does acknowledge that there has been some impact in two specific areas in Europe:

• In countries where SMS price was artificially high (in some cases more than 10 times the price of SMS in other European countries) the decline in SMS revenues was accelerated by instant messaging services, such as Whatsapp. However in countries where SMS has been cheaper or provided as part of an unlimited tariff, Whatsapp and other instant messaging services have had negligible impact on carrier revenues.

• VOIP calls have eaten into international voice calls but the relative losses here are small and in some cases the competing VOIP services have been provided by the carrier themselves.

> Written with financial support from Google, the report is available here.

> Indepth market elements can also be found in reports regurarly published in the DigiWorld Reasearh catalogue from IDATE: “Communication Services


Small cells and Wifi offloading


Frédéric Pujol
Head of radio technologies & spectrum practice, IDATE

Now mainstream for MNOs and key issue for smart city


Mobile data traffic is continuing to grow fast. To cope with the data surge, MNOs are in a very complicated situation, where they need both to provide improved coverage or capacity to customers and to proceed with great caution on spending. This latest IDATE report presents the state-of-the art of the small cell and Wifi opportunities to close the gap and highlights strategies at play. It also gives the flavour of future scenarios.

Wifi is not brand-new. It has been playing a key role in releasing network congestion for years because it is not expensive. Seamless connectivity and handover between cellular and Wifi are addressed carefully. Carrier Wifi solutions that promise an enhanced customer experience and security through Passpoint/Hotspot 2.0 are currently implemented by players. Wifi has also been widely adopted to provide voice services through Wifi calling, also known as VoWiFi.

All in all, small cell and carrier Wifi are needed for a smooth transition to 5G, scheduled at the earliest for 2020. IDATE forecasts the small cell market is at last close to take-off. We foresee a huge growth of the small cell market driven by a robust increase in mobile data traffic:

Macrocell densification continues in Europe as population coverage has not yet reached the 95-100% range.

Alongside macro cells, MNOs are increasingly relying on carrier Wifi and small cells to cope with mobile data surge in cost-cautious times. Small cells have extended beyond the first devices dedicated to residential use and moved to urban, enterprise and rural areas. Technical innovations facilitate the management of small cell interference with the macro network. Small cells give the opportunity to come closer to the user and to increase customer experience. They can be installed in street furniture, for instance.

In this face-off between cellular and Wifi, different players want to take a share of the cake.

Wifi-first players appeared in 2014 in the USA with a disruptive proposition: customers are using primarily free Wifi and they switch to paid cellular when Wifi is not available.

With Wifi, cablecos are on the road to offer quad-play services. Mobile is both an additive strategy to grow into a new market segment and a defensive strategy to cement cable’s stronghold in households.

OTTs were very successful in creating innovative services and in expanding them to many different devices. With a 20 USD plan, Google Fi is able to threaten MNOs in the USA and to attract young price-sensitive customers. Apple was very successful in eating into MNO revenues with popular iPhone services.

Small cells as a strategic path to the smart city

Small cells can use existing street furniture such as lamp posts, billboards or bus stops to come closer to the customers: JCDecaux pioneered the concept of subsidizing public street furniture in exchange for rights to advertise. Installation can also be done on municipality furniture such as lighting poles and traffic lights: Philips promotes actively the LED technology. Supporting digital lamp posts, it signed a partnership with Ericsson to integrate Ericsson’s small cell equipment in lamp posts.

 Towards hyper density and emergence of smart cities


Source: IDATE, Small cells and Wifi offloading, August 2015

 Find out more information on "Small cells and Wifi offloading" in our dedicated market report

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com     www.digiworldweek.com


Digital First


ICT industry players vs. the new disrupters


From 17 to 19 November 2015, the 37th annual DigiWorld Summit will bring together 140 top-tier speakers from around the world to Montpellier, to share their views with the more than 1,200 participants from over 25 countries. French Tech will also be in the spotlight during the 2nd annual DigiWorld Week and at the inaugural DigiWorld Awards.

For IDATE Chairman, François Barrault, the theme of “Digital-First” – which was chosen in concert with DigiWorld Institute members – “refers to the tremendous rise of digital technologies in the business world, and huge changes in consumer behaviours. This astonishing acceleration is upsetting the status quo and shaking up the traditional economy, paving the way for new business models ushered in by the digital economy”.

Supervising the programme is IDATE CEO, Yves Gassot, drawing on IDATE consultants’ knowledge and expertise. “Once again this year,” says Mr Gassot, “the participants coming to Montpellier will get an invaluable, detailed snapshot of all of the latest digital industry events, thanks to the plenary sessions and the many forums, and to a large and prestigious panel of speakers from Europe, the United States and China who will be on hand to debate the multifarious questions raised by the ongoing digital revolution”:

What are the promises of this new age of knowledge? with Jimmy WALES, Founder, Wikipedia
How is the Internet changing the travel industry? with Peter VERHOEVEN, Managing Director EMEA, Booking.com and Alex SCHLEIFER, Head of Design, Airbnb
How are veteran toy companies reacting to the video game invasion? with Dan JUDKINS, Head of Global Design and Development, Hasbro Inc.
How are the Internet giants adjusting to the changes at work? with Carlo d'ASARO BIONDO, President EMEA strategic relationships, Google
In with the new for a telco going global, with Michel COMBES, COO, Altice
Is everything about to change for telcos? with Santiago Fernández VALBUENA, Group CSO, Telefónica
What services will be attached to smart devices? with Bruno BARLET, Executive VP France, LEGRAND, Vincent CHAMPAIN, Operations Director, General Electric and Xavier BOIDEVEZI, VP Development & Digital, SEB
Just how far can telcos go in helping their customers’ digital transformation? with Thierry BONHOMME, Senior Executive Vice President, Orange Business Services
Do we really need new dedicated networks for the Internet of Things? with Geoff MULLIGAN, Chairman, LoRa Alliance and Ludovic LE MOAN, CEO, Sigfox
Will the next Netflix come from China? with WEN Rui, Director of national Business Development, Youku Tudou
Will new gen mobile TV be the new killer app for video? with Richard LUCQUET, Director, Business Development Technology Partnerships & Licensing, Oncue (Verizon)
What does the future hold for a top, integrated telecom equipment supplier? Vincent PENG, President Western Europe, Huawei
Does regulation need to adapt to Internet rules? with Fatima BARROS, Chair 2015, BEREC, Sébastien SORIANO, Chairman, ARCEP and Bruno LASSERRE, Chairman, French competition authority
Can we count on digital markets to deliver a new period of growth? with Georg GRAETZ, Associate-Labour Markets, London Economics School and Jean-Hervé LORENZI, President, Cercle des Économistes
As well as: Accenture, BBC, Bouygues Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, France Télévisions, edX, IBM,
JC Decaux, NEST, Nokia, Qualcom Life, SEB, SNCF, Studio Bagel, Wilseed Studio…

The DigiWorld Summit programme has grown in 2015, to give us a chance to explore the ins and outs of the tremendous and wide-reaching effervescence at work in digital industries today: “This is why we are hosting the second annual DigiWorld Week, which was designed as a collaborative space for partner events. We will also be hosting the first ever DigiWorld Awards, which were created to identify and reward French talent abroad, with special guest, Axelle Lemaire, French Minister of State for the Digital Sector,” explains IDATE’ deputy CEO, Jean-Dominique Séval.

> View the complete programme at:http://digiworldsummit.com

DigiWorld Week 14 – 22 November 2015
IDATE expands on the two days of the DigiWorld Summit, and plays host to an exciting event-filled week. Delving deeper into the issues and shaking up ideas through symposiums, workshops, hackathons, exhibitions, festivals, master classes, digital café… Exploring a host of topics, including the cloud, IoT, eHealth, FX, digital arts, smart agriculture, management, …

> Get the latest news at: www.digiworldweek.com

DigiWorld Awards 19 November 2015
In partnership with Business France and French Tech, IDATE will be hosting the first annual DigiWorld Awards, recognising French digital start-ups (Equipment and devices, Networks and telecoms, Internet services and application, M2M and IoT…), created abroad. Awards will be in four categories: Africa and the Middle East – The Americas – Asia – Europe. The winning start-ups will be added to the international innovation support programmes being run by Accenture, Capgemini, Ericsson and Orange.

> For more details: http://www.digiworldsummit.com/awards

For all the latest information, go to: www.digiworldsummit.com and www.digiworldweek.com

Follow us on Twitter: @DigiWorldIDATE


Cellular Connected Devices


Samuel Ropert
Senior Consultant, DigiWorld IDATE

"The Cellular device (Tablets & laptops) installed base wil top 370 million devices worldwide in 2020, up from 54 million in 2013."


Connected cellular device is a device equipped with Internet access through cellular networks (2.5G, 3G and 4G). Connectivity is provided through an embedded module in the device (the SIM card could be removable or not). The main consumer devices addressed here are tablets and laptops. Some opportunities could be seen at the enterprise level especially to meet executive mobility requirements.

Unlike Wifi-only, the cellular module provides connectivity ‘on the go’. 3G and 4G connectivity provides an always-on feature which allows application notification reception. With Wifi-only devices, the device turns automatically into a sleeping mode. 4G could appear as a game changer as, unlike 3G performance, 4G offers more bandwidth and better latency which even excels Wifi performance. Nevertheless, unlike Wifi, the cellular connectivity is not free of charge. The end user needs to contract a specific data plan. The other drawback is that, even without a subscription, cellular products are more expensive than Wifi-only products because the bill of material is more expensive. Moreover, Wifi connectivity is increasingly widespread, with a Wifi module embedded in each new connected consumer electronic product worldwide, and is offered for free in hotels, restaurants and even bars. In some airports, the user can have free access for a short period and can buy units of time of Wifi connectivity.

The connected device value chain is mainly composed by two groups of players: the connected device manufacturers (Samsung, Apple, Nexus, HP, Lenovo and Dell) and the mobile carriers providing innovative models (subsidy-based and even on-demand connectivity models). Module makers are also very involved in this segment. They provide specific modules and chiefly promote the embedded SIM-based module.

33% of the tabelts are cellular, in advanced markets
In terms of market adoption, cellular products are clearly gaining traction and several market estimates show that around 33% of the tablets are cellular, in advanced markets. The adoption varies a good deal from country to country. Cellular laptops are mainly driven by the professional market as it is more affordable to use rather than using dedicated dongles. Nevertheless, according to industry sources, their adoption is very limited, especially on the consumer side. The main issue here is that the laptop market (cellular or not) has been in decline since the launch of the first iPad. Hence, cellular laptop offerings are still restricted to the business market and almost non-existent for consumer market. Nevertheless, the last year has seen the withdrawal of key laptop offerings, showing thus the real barriers for this market take-off.

How to simulate market adoption?
To stimulate market adoption, numerous business models are being offered to the end user, depending on the distribution/sale channel. Both OEM and connectivity players provide connectivity offerings. Indeed, even OEM players are offering connectivity services through pure paid services or even provide fixed month traffic amount for a specific time after device purchase, with a top-up option obviously available. In the domain of MNOs, beyond this wholesale model, they currently provide traditional retail connectivity and the popular subsidised model. Some carriers also integrate these devices in their mobile share plan. Innovative data plans should also become popular in a near future, such as the on-demand connectivity based on embedded SIM technology, ideal for short-time journeys, weekending or vacationing abroad, for instance.

Breakdown of total cellular device (laptop and tablets) connectivity market, by country, in million EUR, in 2015
Source: IDATE in Cellular devices, June 2015

The cellular device installed base will top 370 million devices worldwide in 2020
The cellular device installed base will top 370 million devices worldwide in 2020, up from 54 million in 2013.

In 2020, tablets will be the most popular cellular device around the world, with 90% of the total market. In 2020, this market will be led by the USA, followed by China. Germany is expected to lead the EU5 market.
In 2020, the personal devices segment should reach 270 million units, representing 72% of the market (a stable breakdown compared to 2015) but they will take 55% of the total world connectivity market, as professional devices generate more traffic and related ARPU is therefore much higher.


Find out more on Cellular Devices in our dedicated market report

Filed under: LTE, Mobile, Telecom No Comments

Public safety spectrum & systems


Carole Manero
Senior Consultant, IDATE DigiWorld

Which pathways to broadband PPDR networks?



Spectrum is at the heart of PPDR issues. Future usage for public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) worldwide is expected to concentrate on a limited number of frequencies. Allocation of broadband PPDR spectrum will be discussed at the WRC-15 in November 2015.

400 MHz frequencies are used for narrowband systems (TETRA, TETRAPOL, and P25) and considered for broadband.

800 MHz frequencies are used by narrowband networks in some countries or even regions and considered for broadband PPDR networks in some Asian countries.

The 700 MHz band is the best candidate worldwide. In the USA, broadband PPDR spectrum was allocated in 2008 in the 700 MHz band. In Asia, the APT700 plan is likely to be adopted region wide; in terms of spectrum adoption in Europe and MEA, the question will be discussed at the WRC-15. The 698-703/753-758 MHz is a sub-band which could be made available for broadband PPDR at national level alongside SDL.

TETRA-like narrowband technologies have served PPDR issues through dedicated PPDR networks using PPDR spectrum extremely well over the past decade. As these networks are by nature narrowband, they only support low data rates.

There is now a clear global consensus that LTE will be the baseline technology for next-generation broadband PPDR networks. LTE still needs to be adapted: as from Release 12 of 3GPP LTE standards, LTE will be enhanced to meet public safety applications requirements. LTE extended capabilities are expected to be PPDR-friendly in future releases. Release 12 includes basic PPDR features. Its freeze, however, has been slightly postponed and some PPDR features formerly scheduled in Release 12 will be dealt with in Releases 13 and 14.

A number of countries are actively working to provide a PPDR-friendly network to users. Several distinct initiatives are emerging around the world, ranging from commercial LTE networks using commercial spectrum on one side to dedicated PPDR networks using PPDR spectrum on the opposite side. Possibilities in between also exist, such as hardened LTE networks.

Initiatives towards broadband PPDR systems are intensifying around the world. In Europe, a number of examples are flourishing, among them the Blue Light MVNO approach and the planned hardened LTE network pushed by the UK Home Office. On the other side of the Atlantic, the FCC had the opposite view and refused to use commercial networks. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is mandated to build a US-nationwide PPDR network with PPDR spectrum. Nevertheless, these latter two huge and complex initiatives are facing many hurdles.

Business models overview


Find out more about business models for PPDR, its status of allocations and PPDR over LTE-A

in our dedicated market report


Filed under: LTE, Mobile No Comments

After Germany, the UK and Italy: mobile consolidation continues


Didier Pouillot
Director of Telecom Economics Business Unit,




The announcement of the merger between Wind and Tre in Italy and the resulting shift from 4 down to 3 mobile operators for the country, confirms the telecom consolidation trend in Europe.

It takes two forms:

On one hand, with the multiplication of fixed-mobile consolidation operations, like the recent acquisition of mobile operator Base in Belgium by the cable operator Telenet. Other examples include the Orange-Jazztel operations in Spain, BT-EE in the UK, Numericable-SFR in France, and Vodafone-Ono, also in Spain.

On the other hand, we are seeing a concentration in the mobile sector, from 4 down to 3 operators, including the top 5 countries of the European Union (see map). Germany has already switched, with the merger between E-Plus and O2, the respective subsidiaries of KPN and Telefónica in 2014 after a long investigation by the European antitrust authorities. In the UK, the planned merger between Three, the local subsidiary of the Hong Kong group Hutchison Whampoa (also parent company of Tre in Italy) and O2, will likewise reduce the number of operators in the mobile industry from 4 to 3. In Spain, the sale of yoigo, proposed two years ago by TeliaSonera, was abandoned due to the lack of a buyer under terms that the Swedish group deemed reasonable but the Spanish market is de facto concentrated within three operators, the fourth and last arrival having just over 6% of the market (in number of customers), and having further declined since late 2014. But let’s recall that in France, conversely, Free Mobile has managed to win about 15% of customers (but some 8% of revenues) of the French market in three years. In this concerted process, the French market seems to be the only one continuing to swim against the current!

Beyond the five major European markets, a significant number of other member states of the European Union also have around 3 mobile operators, and only two in the case of Cyprus.

In total, of the 23 other countries, just half (12 in total) still have 4 or more operators. But for some (Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Sweden), the fourth operator has remained embryonic. Note also that while four countries still benefited from the launch of 4G to open the market for a new entrant (Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia), uncertainties remain on the sustainability of new licenses. Romania is also the only member state to host six operators. And finally, in Belgium, the allocation of a fourth 3G license to the Telenet-Voo consortium in 2011 was not finally acted upon: both protagonists relinquished their licenses in 2014! Finally, we should complete this inventory by highlighting the diversity of situations relating to MVNOs, in number and market share.

Nevertheless, with more than 100 licenses issued, the European market remains highly fragmented at Community level!

Number of mobile network operators (MNO) in the Member States of the European Union


More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com

Filed under: FTTx, Mobile, Telecom No Comments

Telcos & Digital Services Strategies


Vincent Bonneau
TV Head of IDATE’s Innovation Business Unit, IDATE


Key IoT and OTT markets are expected to represent close to 245 billion EUR in 2014 and could reach 440 billion EUR in 2018.

 Telcos are being challenged on their traditional markets, with just 2.5% of CAGR for the upcoming years. Competitive pressure is coming from OTT players but also from within the telecom industry itself, with strong price pressure on connectivity products. At the same time, the development of OTT and, to a lesser extent, of IoT, itself often seen as a major threat for telcos, is increasingly perceived as an opportunity.

Within IoT and OTT markets, a few key markets are driving growth. The biggest markets are by far cloud and advertising (respectively 64 and 93 billion EUR in 2014), with more than 15% of CAGR in the next four years for both markets, thanks to RTB, SaaS and IaaS solutions. Video is the smallest digital market with 18 billion EUR but it is also the fastest growing, thanks to advertising-based formats and SVOD. Financial services are already well developed thanks to carrier billing and e-commerce, while NFC payments remain very marginal. Finally, hopes remain high around cellular M2M markets and the numerous associated markets (notably smart metering, connected health and smart cities), but the overall revenue growth remains moderate despite a huge expansion in volume.

In total, key IoT and OTT markets are expected to represent close to 245 billion EUR in 2014 and could reach 440 billion EUR in 2018, close to one third of telecom markets. Telcos can potentially benefit from a rich number of opportunities around these new markets. They can position themselves as service providers, competing head to head with OTT providers. There are countless other opportunities as technology enablers providing some of the building blocks.

Find out more on telco initiatives in digital services and the opportunities levered thereby

 in our dedicated market report

Filed under: Mobile, Telecom No Comments

Digital First: ICT players vs. the new disrupters


The place to be in Europe, to understand upcoming disruptions and their impact on telecom, IT, Internet and media markets

From 17 to 19 November 2015, the 37th annual DigiWorld Summit will bring together 150 top-tier speakers to Montpellier to share their views with the more than 1,200 participants from over 30 countries. French Tech will also be in the spotlight during the 2nd annual DigiWorld Week and at the inaugural DigiWorld Awards.

Under the banner of “Digital First” IDATE will host debates on the core trends shaping telecom, IT, Internet and media markets, with the knowledge that digital technology is entering a new stage in its ubiquity, becoming the vehicle of a major overhaul in many sectors: energy, insurance, finance, health, automotive, travel and tourism… “But,” says IDATE CEO, Yves Gassot, “this digital verticalisation also represents a new challenge for IT, telecoms, Internet and media industry stakeholders. They may see new growth opportunities, but also challenges as innovation cycles are accelerating, as they consider the shifting outlines of their business and contend with new digital intermediaries.”

This new stage in the digital transformation is being spurred by ubiquitous wireline and wireless connectivity, the economies of scale of cloud computing, and the power of real time data processing algorithms. But it is being amplified by the rise of connected objects, and the promises of 3D printing, of artificial intelligence and the collaborative economy. A profound transformation of the economy that is already materialising in changes to production and distribution infrastructures, in the accelerated shift from product to service and the profusion of channels for interaction with end users.

• What do vertical companies (media groups and TV networks, insurance, automotive, travel, retail, etc.) want from digital industry players (telcos, OTT, IT)?

• How should digital industry players position themselves with respect to the digital transformation in vertical markets?

• How can the Web’s top destination platforms cohabitate with the vertical markets’ new digital champions?

• This year’s Guest Country: China. Can China combine the power of its recently acquired positions in Internet and telecom markets with its manufacturing ambitions?

2015 DigiWorld Summit Programme


Plenary sessions

Analysis and debates between veteran industry players and disruptive start-ups, with insights from IDATE’s finest economists and analysts:

Digital channels
A new chapter in the platform wars?

Digital Infrastructure
From ultra smart networks to predictive analytics?

Digital Product
From goods to services

Digital Regulation
OTT rules?

Digital Europe, Digital World
Closing session

Specialty forums

In-depth seminars with the industry’s top expertsConnected Things Forum

Smart City Forum

Future Networks

TV & Video Distribution Forum

Future Digital Economy Forum

Game Summit

DigiWorld Week (14 – 22 November 2015): IDATE expands on the two days of the DigiWorld Summit, and plays host to an exciting event-filled week. Delving deeper into the issues and shaking up ideas: symposiums, workshops, hackathons, exhibitions, festivals, master classes, …

DigiWorld Awards: in partnership with Business France and French Tech, IDATE will be hosting the first annual DigiWorld Awards, recognising French digital start-ups (Equipment and devices, Networks and telecoms, Internet services and application, M2M and IoT…), created abroad. Awards will be in four categories: Africa and the Middle East – The Americas – Asia – Europe

The DigiWorld Summit, is organised under the patronage of the French Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, the Région Languedoc Roussillon and Montpellier Métropole, with the support of DigiWorld Institute member companies.

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com


Platforms regulation

Yves Gassot

Yves Gassot


Year after year, the economic and financial power of the GAFA  quartet of Internet platforms continues to increase. Which brings two questions back to the fore, again and again: what trends might emerge to counter this seemingly inexorable rise? And do we need regulations that apply specifically to platforms?

A quick reminder of what economists mean by platform economics (digital or not): multi-sided markets (i.e. involving interactions between two or more parties) with reciprocal “network effects”. So the more iPhones that Apple sells, for instance, the more attractive its app store becomes to developers (and so to users), and vice-versa. In digital sectors, this characteristic is typically combined with a reduction in fixed costs (software), generating increasing returns as the platform becomes more successful.

By 2025

Network effects usually go hand in hand with another property: asymmetrical prices. If Apple is starting to earn substantial income from the App Store, its business model and profits are rooted chiefly in the high price of its iPhones. With ad-funded models, one side of the market operates as a free service. As we have seen with Apple, digital platforms are a very efficient means of fostering open innovation, and capitalising on innovations from third parties. All of these aspects, which go some way to explaining why “winner takes all” when it comes to platforms, naturally need to rely on the ability to maintain the role of intermediary, and continue to become more proficient at it. Otherwise, the platform’s customers and suppliers will begin to adopt multiple homes, before eventually moving on to another, better platform. The efficiency of the leading platforms is the very reason for the current ambivalence over how much they are serving the greater good. On the one hand are concerns that a dominant OS will abuse its position while, on the other, this popularity can also mean an opportunity for developers, and can have positive repercussions for consumers.

The dichotomy needs to be resolved by taking account of the Internet’s dynamics as a whole. Windows has been through a number of anti-trust investigations but, today, this is the mobile Internet which has moved down the priority.

Worth reading on this topic is the recent IDATE report on "The future of the Internet: 2025". It takes a detailed look at the key technologies for the coming years, and especially at how development scenarios will be shaped by key variables, such as the openness of the Internet ecosystems, or the impact of restrictive privacy or security-related public policies. Here, we will add two other events that take us beyond a GAFA-centric environment. First, 2014 saw a number of Internet powerhouses emerge from the shadows of the GAFA quartet: in China (Alibaba, Weibo…) and in Asia’s leading markets in general (Rakuten, Line…).

We cannot entirely discount the possibility of these players gradually coming to compete head on with their Western peers. Second, we need to consider the position held by new players moving into vertical markets, many of which have carved out a place of sector-specific intermediary – Uber and Airbnb being two prime examples – and which have no intention of being taken over by Google or Apple or the like.

Nevertheless, faced with the realisation that GAFA continue to become increasingly powerful, the inefficiency of antitrust laws and the regulatory asymmetries compared to those imposed on other players along the chain, the idea of regulation that applies specifically to platforms is gradually coming to the fore. It may not be a good idea. Competition law, even ex post, is not necessarily ineffectual.


Plus it will be no simple matter to define the contours of the platform sector. And extending existing sector-specific laws, such as those that apply to electronic communications, to make OTT companies and telcos subject to the same principles, would take us down a path where, as businesses become more and more digitised, every economic sector would be more or less governed by electronic communications laws. Keeping in mind that the upcoming review of the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications is expected to focus on network access conditions and interconnection – and probably put more emphasis on symmetrical regulation. Should voice and SMS products not be removed from the scope of the telecom sector’s ex ante regulation, rather than adding in competing OTT products such as Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, etc.?

It nonetheless remains that in sensitive areas for digital industry players, such as those governing contract law, taxation, public safety and privacy, we can very easily identify laws that should apply across the board, such as what we find in consumer products and the retail industry. Without having to produce laws that are specific to platforms, the current juncture could provide an opportunity to merge national legal provisions with regional (EU) and global ones, and to ensure that they apply equally to all players along the value chain

For the publication of the last study about "the future Internet in 2025" and  the 15th edition of the DigiWorld Yearbook, IDATE is organizing a conference on the perspectives and key trends that will structure the digital economy for the next decade, DigiWorld Future

Register for the Conference in Paris the 16th of June     Discover the programme

More informations about IDATE's expertise and events :

www.idate.org      www.digiworldsummit.com      www.digiworldweek.com