Brussels – November 17, 2020: GIGAEurope, the industry association of private investors in gigabit connectivity celebrated its launch by bringing together policymakers MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and Anthony Whelan, Digital Policy Adviser in the Cabinet of President von der Leyen, plus senior industry executives from Vodafone Group, Liberty Global, VodafoneZiggo and Telenet.
The event highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic surged network occupancy, as home working, online learning, remote healthcare services and digital public services drastically increased. Research by OMDIA shows the impact of COVID-19 and lockdowns throughout Europe on the use of online services:
Keeping everybody connected
Investment in network upgrades year-on-year in terms of higher speeds, lower latency and more bandwidth – well ahead of the pandemic – allowed broadband networks to manage the unprecedented spikes in internet traffic.
Next to their core network related business, connectivity providers have taken special measures to keep everybody connected during the pandemic: social tariffs, removal of data caps, and tailored connectivity solutions for hospitals and schools.
Less than half of EU households have access to gigabit speeds
The DESI 2020 report by the European Commission states that currently 44% of EU households have access to a connection of 1 Gbps or more.
Joakim Reiter, Co-chair of GIGAEurope and Group External Affairs Director, Vodafone Group comments: “Even though our networks show resilience during the pandemic, Europe is still far from achieving its Gigabit Society goals for 2025. Reaching the EU gigabit target of 1 Gbps for all European households by 2025 requires a concerted effort. A mix of gigabit technologies, mobile and fix, is needed. Policymakers and all stakeholders within the digital ecosystem are standing at a critical junction and need to partner to co-create Europe’s Digital Decade.”
MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri commented at the GIGAEurope launch event: “The demand side has now increased a lot compared to the times when we were regulating the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). The crisis showed how much data can help society. There is no data society if we do not have connectivity everywhere. I call for investments and for a culture of data sharing and skills at all levels to reap the possibilities unlocked by the investments.”
On the same occasion, Anthony Whelan, Digital Policy Adviser, Cabinet of President von der Leyen commented: “We need progressive upgrades of our networks preferable before demand accumulates in a surge, as we see that life and workstyles are transforming. Also a message to public authorities in areas where the market cannot meet the new normal life style, including types of economic growth underpinned by remote working: it is more urgent than ever to support industry roll-out with various types of public support, but only where needed. That is one reason why in the EU recovery plan, we have put a lot of emphasis on connectivity as one of the flagships that Member States should integrate in their national recovery plans.”
20% of EU Recovery Fund will be invested in Digital
The GIGAEurope launch event demonstrates how the new association wants to create an open dialogue with regulators, governments and politicians. The panel discussion elaborated on complementary public funding and creating the optimal conditions for private operators to invest in gigabit networks.
Manuel Kohnstamm, Co-chair of GIGAEurope and Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Liberty Global comments: “We support the Commission’s initiative of fostering national recovery plans that balance efficient public spending with creating conditions best suited for private investment. Immediate priorities for accelerating the gigabit ambitions relate to reduction of the cost of deploying very high capacity networks and to ensuring investment-friendly 5G spectrum licensing approaches.”.
Kohnstamm adds: “Consolidation is to be encouraged to foster strong European telco competitors and create a real internal market for telecom services.” He applauded Europe being more open to M&A activity in the telecom industry, as the EU Commission recently demonstrated in various merger files.
Gigabit infrastructure: cornerstone of an inclusive, digital, green Europe
The connectivity sector also plays a significant role in driving Europe’s green transition. As part of the overall Green Deal climate neutrality objective for the EU, a sector-specific target of zero carbon emission by 2030 has been set for telecommunications networks and data centres.
By connecting SMEs and socio-economic operators to gigabit networks, providers also act as a catalyst for the greening of the European economy more broadly. Gigabit connections facilitate the use of smart technologies for sustainable business operations, remote working, distance learning or digital health.
Irina Varlan, Managing Director of GIGAEurope comments: “Gigabit infrastructure is a cornerstone of Europe’s technology leadership and digital competitiveness ambitions. Members of GIGAEurope are key players in the European digital ecosystem, who jointly deliver on the promise of the data economy and democratize access to emerging technologies. Gigabit connections and seamless fixed/mobile connectivity solutions are ready to power European Cloud, IoT, AI and smart green solutions at scale”.
Built on the foundation of Cable Europe
GIGAEurope builds on the legacy of Cable Europe, which was active since 1955. With the connectivity industry having undergone major technical advances, the launch of GIGAEurope symbolizes the shift towards gigabit connectivity and the convergence of fixed and mobile networks undertaken by private investors in this sector. It was therefore time for private investors in very high capacity networks to relaunch its collaboration under a strengthened voice. And this voice is GIGAEurope.
GIGAEurope brings together private operators who build, operate and invest in gigabit communications networks that enable Europe’s digital connectivity. GIGAEurope members collectively provide connectivity services to over 40 million fixed broadband customers and 130 million mobile customers spanning across Europe.
For more information, please contact:
Irina Varlan, Managing Director GIGAEurope
Mobile: +40 723 382 886
Liberty Global’s Manuel Kohnstamm and Vodafone’s Joakim Reiter will be GIGAEurope co-chairs
Brussels, 21 April 2020 – Irina Varlan has been appointed as Managing Director of GIGAEurope, the new industry organisation that brings together private operators who build, operate and invest in the gigabit communications networks that enable Europe’s digital connectivity.
GIGAEurope’s members provide reliable and secure gigabit-speed connections to customers across Europe, offering world-class products and services, including converged fixed and mobile communications. Through the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the essential nature of these services for the functioning of societies has become ever more apparent.
As providers of such critical services, GIGAEurope’s members are all working to keep their respective countries connected despite huge increases in traffic load. They offer key services to governments as important parts of their response to the crisis, as well as reliable connections to families, friends, hospitals, businesses, schools and universities.
Irina Varlan is an experienced corporate executive who has worked in multinational companies for more than 20 years. Before joining GIGAEurope, she served as General Counsel, Public Policy and Regulatory Director of UPC Romania, Liberty Global.
Irina has also held a number of senior management positions in leading international telecommunications companies, including DHT Television, Telekom Romania and the American company Metromedia International.
A graduate of the Bucharest Faculty of Law, Irina is also a legal practitioner, an attorney-at-law member of the Bucharest Bar, having worked in the private legal practice at the associated law firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers Romania.
She will lead the association as it promotes the industry’s interests, and in the longer term becomes an umbrella organization for a broad section of the connectivity industry.
Irina Varlan said: “Communications operators are playing a key role in keeping families and friends connected while they are required to stay apart during the COVID-19 crisis – enabling people across Europe to stay in touch, work from home, run their businesses, continue their education and stay informed and entertained.”
“I’m very proud to become the Managing Director of GIGAEurope, whose members will continue to play an integral role in helping manage and shape business, technological and society both during the crisis and as we recover from it. I look forward to championing Europe’s connectivity providers as the digital sector remains critically important across the continent.”
GIGAEurope also announced that its co-chairs will be Manuel Kohnstamm, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Liberty Global, and Joakim Reiter, Group External Affairs Director for Vodafone Group.
Commenting on the appointment of Irina Varlan, Manuel Kohnstamm said: “Irina is an ideal appointment to lead the new GIGAEurope. She brings with her a wealth of industry experience – her knowledge, leadership skills and business instinct will ensure that the organisation and its members are well represented, which will benefit millions of customers throughout Europe.”
Joakim Reiter said: “The team leading GIGAEurope will be at the forefront of Europe’s connectivity revolution, and we’re delighted to have Irina leading the way. Her time working for some of the world’s telecommunications companies means she is perfectly suited to the role of Managing Director and we are excited to work closely with her.”
GIGAEurope supports a strong and harmonised European Digital Single Market, with a clear focus on enabling regulatory and market conditions that allow for investment, innovation and sustainable competition in Gigabit infrastructure and the Internet of Things.
GIGAEurope members serve around 40 million fixed broadband customers and 130 million mobile customers spanning across Europe. Its founding members include most of the current Cable Europe membership and companies dedicated to providing customers with reliable and secure gigabit-speed end-to-end connectivity. They contain leading converged broadband and communications companies like Liberty Global, Vodafone and Telenet.
 Data provided by OMDIA