The opening session in Cologne had a familiar feel to it. An introduction from Thomas Braun welcoming delegates to an ANGA COM 2023 with more international visitors and more exhibitors that had been seen even before the days of Covid.
The President of cable operator association ANGA said the industry had covered much ground, but there was still much work to do, highlighting the importance that “global tech organisations pay their way”.
Nathanael Liminski, the Minister for Federal, European and International Affairs and the Media in North Rhine Westphalia, spoke of recent meetings with students, who had acknowledged ChatCPT needed some form of regulation, and with publishers fearful that AI would deny them the victories they had achieved in copyright law.
“In Germany we’re usually afraid, which means we do nothing for a few years, but then we want to solve the problem,” said Liminski. “We shouldn’t just focus on the risks but see what we can do with this megatrend.” The CDU politician said that a lot of regulation that had been adopted in Germany was “thwarted” at European level. But he assured delegates that while the Länder might not be talking with Europe, the Federal Government was.
Liminski said he wanted a level playing field so that Netflix, Amazon and Joyn have the same chances. “The obligation to make investment is not close to my heart, he added, “we have to be careful we don’t over regulate.”
The panel that followed delved into the infrastructure and the contention that Deutsche Telekom was involved in overbuild, deploying its services in areas where smaller operators had already set up shop.
Timo von Lepel, MD, NetCologne, said the whole industry was united against Deutsche Telekom. Srini Gopalan of Deutsche Telekom’s management board responded that he could not speak for the whole market. Deutsche Telekom should not just be restricted to the cities. Gopalan looked a little like he’d come from a US college sports team. A grey casual jacket emblazoned with the pink T logo of his employer.
Stefan Schnorr, Germany’s minister of digital and transport, did not want to intervene, pointing out Telekom is not the only organisation involved in overbuild, but others too. “Private companies have to make their own decisions. The days of government saying where you can and can’t build are gone.”
Schnorr said a Government Gateway would be launched in December 2023, enabling users to apply for services like car tax online, and removing the need for the kind of paperwork German citizens are used to. Such schemes sit alongside the target of 2030 to complete the country’s fibre rollout. But he admitted Germany’s Federal structure didn’t make the Gateway project easy.
Bernd Thielk, CEO, willy.tel didn’t think 2030 would be as easy as ministers hoped, warning of high interest rates and a shortage of skilled labour.
But Philippe Rogge, CEO of Vodafone Deutschland, was more optimistic with the company’s large German cable network and 27 million homes that are “gigabit ready”.
“We need to ask ourselves: are we trying to play in the Bundesliga or the World Cup? We’re a strong economic power, and have the technology we need, we have to use these competences.”