Europe has become stifling for expansion and investment in the telecommunications industry, according to executives from the region’s giants such as Orange, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom.

New regulations cutting roaming charges will only make things worse, they added.

"Our main problem in Europe is that we have no growth," Orange chief executive Stephane Richard said in Brussels.

"Europe has to accept the idea that the price for services, for new technology, for mobile broadband, for fibre will need to increase a little bit. If not, I don’t see how we could manage; there is no more money in Europe," he added.

Telecom companies are rebelling against proposals by European Union Commissioner Neelie Kroes to eliminate roaming charges while standardising some regulation, such as the allocation of spectrum.

Her goal is to encourage data use, increase investment and make Europe more like a single market. Companies say they are being deprived of an important revenue source in a difficult market amid price wars and weak economies in several EU countries.

"Bringing down barriers is ultimately good for the sector," Kroes said in a keynote speech yesterday in Brussels at a conference hosted by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ association.

"But you can’t do that without removing roaming surcharges, without removing the arbitrary high charges for calling across borders," she added.

European telecommunications companies have invested 2% less annually on infrastructure in the last five years, meaning €3.5 billion less was spent in 2012 than 2008, according to a survey by Boston Consulting Group commissioned by ETNO.

Carriers’ revenue is also expected to fall as much as 2% a year in the industry until 2020, for a cumulative decline of as much as €190 billion, according to the report.

Telecom companies want more freedom to consolidate and less regulatory oversight over aspects of their networks, such as what technology they can run on their networks or how much they can charge other companies to use their infrastructure, executives said yesterday. They say they need the freedom to consolidate within markets to stabilise prices.