Digital Race

Catching Up to Google and Co.

Network center servers cables cables cables Source Laif
Racing to connect in a fast-moving market.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    European need to close the widening digital technology gap with the United States and Asia.

  • Facts


    • Europe must move quickly to strengthen its broadband position or risk being “a digital colony” to U.S. and Asian powerhouses.
    • Netzallianz, a group of large and small digital companies united in their efforts to cash in on their networks, is leading the charge for more and better Internet access.
    • While some companies are large enough to chart their own course, others would likely be dependent on government subsidies to expand.
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Mr. Oettinger hopes to challenge powerful U.S. Internet giants such as Apple and Google with his plans to ease telecom regulations and push high-speed communication networks.

“We aim to increase support for broadband expansion,” said Mr. Oettinger, of his plans to lauch a reform package in May aimed at creating a more powerful digital economy in Europe.

On Wednesday, Mr. Oettinger met with representatives of Netzallianz, a group of German service providers that have agreed to cooperate in building high-speed communication infrastructure in the country.

The members include the large operators Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone as well as a number of smaller service providers.

The alliance was launched by Alexander Dobrindt, the German federal minister of transport and digital infrastructure. Europe, he said at the meeting in Berlin, can’t be allowed to become the “digital colony of American and Asian companies.”

“We need fair and equal competitive conditions with Internet providers such as Google.”

Timotheus Höttges, Deutsche Telekom CEO

Mr. Oettinger held out prospects of subsidies through the E.U. infrastructure investment program. But he was also quick to point out the need to support broadband expansion especially in sparsely populated regions, while acknowledging disagreements over how best to achieve this goal.

Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Officer Timotheus Höttges called for changes to German and European telecom policy, demanding more incentivies and fewer penalities. “We need fair and equal competitive conditions with Internet providers such as Google,” he said

Telefónica’s Chief Executive Officer in Germany, Thorsten Dirks, agrees. “The main objective should be to strengthen European service providers in worldwide competition,” he said, adding that this can only be accomplished with “strong service providers.”

Martin Witt, president of the industry association VATM, argued that “where the expansion of broadband is not economical, state incentives are needed.”

Jost Hermanns, president of the city operator Netgologne, underscored the role of smaller operators. argues, “In Germany, the fiber optic networks are a product of the regions and are often pushed by regional providers, especially where large providers haven’t invested yet,” he told Handelsblatt


 Daniel Delhaes reports on politics, transport and airlines from Handelsblatt’s Berlin bureau. To contact the author:

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