AMSTERDAM (03/16/2000) - Although nobody was denying that Europe is lagging behind the U.S. in online access, most executives here at ISP2000 agreed that Europeans will soon catch up thanks to their advantage in mobile technologies.
Many of the speakers here at ISP2000, from European companies as well as executives from American companies who are based in Europe, claimed that Europe is not that far behind, and will not have a difficult time catching up to their U.S. counterparts.
Part of the reason is that European companies have begun to approach things from a different angle, replacing past "copy and paste" business models for ones that exploit Europe's advantage in markets such as WAP (Wireless Applications Protocol) phones.
"Europe is no longer just chasing the U.S., it's seeking its own identity," Konrad Hilbers, chief operating officer of AOL Europe GmbH said in his keynote.
Though many speakers quoted the figure that the average German AOL user spends 14 minutes online compared with a U.S. user's hour, most were quick to point out that those numbers weren't the fault of the companies, but of metered calling, which is still prevalent in Europe.
"I think that's a load of baloney that Europe is too far behind the U.S.," Amit Pau, president of e-business services for Global TeleSystems Group Inc. said in his keynote. "U.S. companies took Europe's free-ISP model and called it their own."
In reality, Europe is much better off than the numbers show, Pau said. Europe's advantage in the market of data-enabled devices, such as WAP phones, will help it get right on the tail of the U.S. within a period of months, Pau said.
Europe is a great deal ahead of the U.S. as far as alternative access devices go. For two years, German ISP T-Online International AG has offered its users options such as notification on a mobile or pager when a specific e-mail message arrives. The company has now started offering e-mail access and banking over WAP phones, according to Guido Weishaupt, director of business development for T-Online.
The three steps Europe has to take quickly, according to AOL Europe's Hilbers, are increasing the growth in e-commerce, getting people to use the Internet, and universal flat-rate access.
"The revolution in Europe will only get started when we get to a flat rate service," Hilbers said. "The telcos and regulators hold the future of European economies in their hands."
ISP2000 continues through today in Amsterdam; more information can be found at http://www.isp2000europe.com/.