Row erupts at MWC as network operators complain about EU price fixing while needing to fund 4G roll outs and spectrum auctions.

Google sides with mobile networks in calling for lighter regulation

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has said that EU governments were "regulating to death" mobile operators with delays for 4G equipment rollouts and excessive charges for radio spectrum.

Speaking during a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, Schmidt said that it was "difficult to be a telecom operator" given the need to upgrade equipment to 4G amid surging demand for wireless data while governments gouge operators for the vital radio spectrum needed for new services.

Operators had raised concerns at the MWC of rising EU regulation such as telecoms watchdogs mandating lower call charges at a time when the mobile operators needed to invest in new equipments and spend big in spectrum auctions.

Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao used a speech at MWC to issue a strong attack on EU regulation of mobile services. "We should stop having this continuous intervention on prices and let the industry reinvest the money," he said.

However European Commission Digital Agenda boss Neelie Kroes was unimpressed at hit back at the comments saying: "I call your bluff, and indeed do not respond well to threats. I take the side of the Vodafone customer."

Kroes highlighting EU efforts to take an axe to hefty roaming charges added: "I remind everyone that we want to get the mobile sector more spectrum and a bigger market. A fair competition in roaming is a good exchange for those opportunities."

Google’s Schmidt called for "rational collaboration" amid calls for a lighter touch to industry regulation in general.

"We at Google are critically dependent on this infrastructure building out," he said.

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