A new day dawning

As a new government is formed in Canada, there will be an opportunity for a renewed focus on developing a cohesive digital strategy to guide the economic recovery.

Yesterday’s election results are not yet finalized, but we already know that there will be new faces in Cabinet in a number of portfolios impacting communications and connectivity.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the need “for a clear strategy, recognizing the balance and inter-relationships between competing objectives for universal access to high quality telecommunications services at affordable prices” (see: “How did we get here? How do we move forward?”).

A recent article on Politico by Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read, “How the EU can speed up its digital transition”, caught my eye. In it, he speaks optimistically of the need for changes in telecom policy and regulations, as some countries recognize that there are opportunities to learn from approaches being applied in other jurisdictions.

European policymakers profess to the importance of the digital transition. As evidenced during the pandemic, modern connectivity and digital services play a critical role in our economic recovery and to help future-proof our society. Yet, Europe is falling behind other pioneering nations in everything from high capacity networks, 5G industrial applications, IoT and cloud to artificial intelligence. A large and growing investment gap has emerged, not least in digital infrastructure and 5G.

The Vodafone CEO mentioned a few examples from a variety of countries, such as recent reforms in Germany that are expected to reduce the time to deploy mobile base stations by up to 4 months.

To attract private investment, Spain introduced interesting policy reforms, such as in the structure of its July auction for 700MHz spectrum, that concluded after just 2 days. Vodafone, Telefónica and Orange all secured frequencies. Read noted that “the government did not use the auction to artificially meddle with the market structure or extract value from the industry.” The spectrum licenses are for 40 years, double the normal length, as long as the carriers meet their licence obligations. “Long-term spectrum licences at reasonable prices will help us move forward with the deployment of 5G services that will revolutionise industry, public services and healthcare.”

Most striking in the Politico article is the call for government and the private sector to develop a new collaborative approach. The digital transition is seen as being an important foundation for a greener economy. “As evidenced during the pandemic, modern connectivity and digital services play a critical role in our economic recovery and to help future-proof our society.”

Whether it is the NDP’s “Ready for Better”, the Conservative’s “Canada’s Recovery Plan”, or the Liberal’s “Forward. For Everyone”, I remain optimistic that the new government will bring a fresh opportunity to leverage the capabilities of Canada’s communications sector, to build Canada’s digitally powered future.

There is much work to be done, but it’s a new day dawning.

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