BRUSSELS--European nations and the region's telecommunications companies need to take steps to bring ultrafast Internet speeds to European consumers, the European Union's telecoms chief said Tuesday.
Speaking at a telecommunications conference, Neelie Kroes, the EU's commissioner for the digital agenda said countries must back plans to leverage EU funds to invest in next-generation broadband networks, and make radio spectrum available so that companies can roll a faster 4G mobile service out as well.
"Where countries don't make enough spectrum available, quite simply their citizens can't enjoy 4G connections on the latest gadgets," Ms Kroes said. "Without faster 4G roll-out, device makers won't take Europe into account when planning their latest smartphones.
There have recently been complaints from consumer groups that the latest gizmos, including the Apple Inc.'s (>> Apple Inc.) new iPad don't work at full speed on some countries' 4G networks.
Ms. Kroes urged countries to give their backing to a plan to use around 50 billion euros ($64.27 billion) directly from the EU budget, known as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which could be leveraged by the European Investment Bank and invested in energy, transport and communications projects where heavy upfront spending is required.
This kind of financial instrument isn't a donation, it's a loan, Ms. Kroes said. "The EU budget gets its money back: with interest."
The final amounts for the funding plan need to be finalized as part of the EU budget this autumn and a special summit is scheduled in November to discuss the contentious topic.
"I want all the broadband funding via those financial instruments," Ms Kroes told an audience including chief executives from Europe's biggest telecommunications companies. "For maximum leverage, coverage, and taxpayer value."
Write to Frances Robinson at [email protected]