The European Robotics Forum, organized under the aegis of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, has brought together 600 exhibitors from Europe, Asia and USA. Communications minister Alexandru Petrescu attended the event and took the time to talk to Business Review about the latest developments in the IT and telecom sectors in Romania and in the EU.
How does the European IT industry look from the Presidency of the EU Council?
It has had an extremely busy period so far and we’ve had an extremely good start to our EU Presidency. I am happy to host the European Robotics Forum together with the European Commission.
It is amazing how much robotics and Artificial Intelligence have evolved in the last few years – it’s like going from the Flintstones to the Jetsons – but European Union still needs to make a lot of effort to close the gap we have with the Asian and North American spaces.
In Europe, we only invest around EUR 3 to 4 billion per year while in Asia the value of investments in AI ranges from EUR 13 to 14 billion, and in North America it can go up to EUR 25 billion per year.
IT as we know it today is going to last for another 12 to 15 years at best, and everything beyond that is going to be based on AI, blockchain, IoT, new and advanced technologies. For the EU it is important to adapt to the mainstream digital economy and adopt AI as soon as possible.
Can we close the gap in innovation and technology between the EU and Asia and North America?
We cannot afford not to close the gap because the global competition is highly aggressive but it is up to us to put new technologies at the centre of our mission. When we talk about robotics in a broader context of AI, Romania has very important programs and has been contributing significantly to making AI a priority.
Romania has been progressing very well so far – we have just finished the first half of the EU Presidency and I am optimistic that we will continue to be as successful in the second half. The legacy we will leave after these six months will be very important and will allow the countries following us to build on the strong foundation we put together.
What are the latest developments regarding 5G licensing?
Well, 5G is a cornerstone event of 2019. Technology and the digital economy are going to be known as the one “before 5G” and the one “after 5G”. Our strategy is to hold the public tender for the procurement of 5G towards the end of 2019 and I have reasons to be optimistic on this matter.
We have already adopted strategy for 5G implementation after public debates and now we are working on the remaining documents, which are the tender book and all the auxiliary documents that are part of the public procurement process that will take place. We are certain that we can have a successful process.
We see some countries already passing this stage of the public procurement – we have Italy, which had a highly successful tender, reaching a value of EUR 6.8 billion if I’m not mistaken, in terms of money collected to the budget; Germany stalled a bit due to some legal disputes between the regulator and some of the operators but that has been resolved recently so they are going ahead with the public procurement.
Most countries are preparing for 5G- the estimation is that the operators will invest between EUR 60 and EUR 100 billion in equipment in deploying 5G in 2019 and 2020. We, as a country, want to be at the forefront of 5G deployment, as it is highly important for the digital economy of Romania and the EU.
We are now negotiating with operators on the terms and conditions and the fiscal framework that has arisen since ordinance 114 in order to find the form that everybody around the table can agree too and, very importantly, that brings a level of equity and balance between profits and budget revenue expectations.