Pokémon’s Pikachu the ‘man of the year’ in telecoms

France's telecoms regulator told industry lobbyists Pokémon Go is "very good news" for them. [Eduardo Woo/Flickr]

Pikachu is the man of the year in telecoms, according to the watchdog next in line to chair a powerful group of EU regulators.

“This guy is very good news for you,” Sébastien Soriano told an auditorium full of telecoms industry lobbyists and regulators yesterday (27 September) at a conference held by ETNO, the association representing large operators including Deutsche Telekom and Orange.

Soriano is chairman of the French telecoms regulator ARCEP and will in January take over to lead Berec, the group of European watchdogs.

The Pokémon Go mobile app became a smash hit when it was released this summer.

Andrus Ansip, the Commission vice-president in charge of the EU’s flagship digital single market policies, has also said that he plays the popular Pokémon Go game.

Europe’s telecoms industry is bracing itself for major changes: the European Commission proposed an overhaul of EU laws governing the sector earlier this month. Günther Oettinger, the Commissioner in charge of telecoms policy, is putting pressure on the European Parliament and national governments to sign off on the proposals by the end of next year—but negotiations often go much longer in Brussels.

“Time is money. We have to come to a decision as soon as possible,” Oettinger said yesterday at the ETNO conference.

The new rules would turn Berec into a full-fledged EU agency and give national telecoms regulators more muscle to police operators and even veto decisions from watchdogs in other countries.

Soriano will remain at the helm of the group while legislators carve out changes to the Commission’s proposal, but his run will end by the time the set of laws are finally agreed.

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“If you look closer at this guy with his face and smile he’s telling you something. He’s telling you ‘Invest or die’,” Soriano said, standing in front of a large picture of the character from the popular Pokémon game projected on the conference stage.

The European Commission estimates that Europe’s internet networks need an investment injection of around €500 billion.

France serves as a template for the co-investment model that the Commission is now encouraging other EU countries to copy, where more than one operator pay for networks together.

Under the new EU plans, the executive is nudging operators to put more money into building faster internet networks to support growing consumer demand for more bandwidth and speedier connections.

“When you are looking for Pikachu you need to have very good coverage,” Soriano said.

“You’ll tell me regulators have nothing to do with Pikachu. This is not exactly true. What I assume as a regulator is that we can help operators to some extent to monetise Pikachu,” he added.

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