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The report provides an overview of the Dutch Information and Communication Technology sector in the Netherlands. The report may be useful to U.S. manufacturers who wish to expand their export sales to the Netherlands or who are interested in using the Netherlands as a gateway to other European countries.


The total Dutch ICT market Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications - amounted to about USD 35.5 billion in 2003 showing signs of gradual recovery after the general economic downturn.


The Information Technology market alone, consisting of computer hardware, software and services amounted to USD 17.6 billion in 2003.  The telecommunications market, equipment (about 15 percent) and services (almost 85 percent) amounted to USD 17.9 billion in 2003.


The Dutch ICT market primarily depends on imports.   Although much of the research, planning and overall management takes place in the Netherlands, actual production in the ICT industry is limited in the Netherlands and has moved in recent years to countries in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe where labor cost is lower.   Exports of ICT products and services produced in the Netherlands are also limited.  Much of the exports consist of re-exports, with or without value added by the Dutch ICT industry.


The U.S. share of the Dutch ICT market is considerable, particularly in the software segment.  As new technologies are introduced the U.S. share continues to grow.  While the Dutch ICT market is very competitive with several big players and a large number of small companies, U.S. companies already active in the Netherlands and those planning to enter the market are expected to benefit from the still growing demand for ICT products and services.


For the purpose of this report, the ICT sector includes the following subsectors: computer hardware, software and services and telecommunication equipment and services (Includes: HS 8471 computer equipment and HS 8517 telecommunication equipment.)



 Market Profile 

A modern nation, the Netherlands is strategically located in Europe, bordered by Germany to the East, across the North Sea from the United Kingdom to the West, and Belgium to the South.  The Netherlands is a founding member of the European Union (EU), and, although small in size, the country plays an important role in the EU at various political and governmental levels.  About the size of the state of Maryland, the Netherlands is densely populated with a total population of 16.2 million people. There is an active working population of 6.6 million people, some 90,000 registered companies with a staff of more than five people, and 6.9 million Dutch households.  The Netherlands is a technologically advanced country offering an excellent transportation and telecommunications infrastructure.  The country offers a compact market, which is used by many ICT companies from abroad as a pilot market and as a central point for distribution of products and services throughout Europe.  Not only is the Netherlands the eighth largest importer from the United States but it also has the well-deserved reputation as the "Gateway to Europe".  The ease of doing business makes it an attractive market for both new-to-export and new-to-market U.S. exporters.  The combination of logistical expertise developed from centuries of international trade, the fact that almost everyone speaks English, and the Dutch acceptance of U.S. products and services makes the Netherlands a prime destination market and the leading location for European distribution centers.


ICT Products and Services Market 

Computer Hardware (computers and peripheral equipment)  - The total hardware market amounted to almost USD  five billion in 2003 and grew just marginally.  For 2004, the hardware market is expected to stay the same or grow slightly.   The business market for new desktop PCs is primarily a replacement market while in the last few years the use of laptops for business increased.  The use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), palmtops and other handhelds also became more popular.  Driven by opportunities offered by the Internet and new applications, the consumer market for multimedia PCs is still increasing, but the growth rate slowed down during 2003.  Growing use of the Internet and larger software applications, e.g. CRM, have increased the sale of small to medium-sized servers.  While the number of printer units sold gradually increased over the last few years, this market did not show significant changes in the last year.  This was mostly due to continuing price decreases.  Color inkjet printers, multi-functional printers and laser printers were among the more popular devices.  U.S. manufacturers led PC sales in 2003, with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM in leading positions.  It is expected that hardware sales will start to pick up more again, as companies start to replace the PCs purchased right before the start of the new millennium.  Government, financial services and other business segments are the main end-users.  The small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector, and consumer sector are still growing in importance. 

Computer Software The software market, estimated at about USD  5.4 billion in 2003, was still the fastest growing segment within the Information Technology sector although reported growth figures dropped to single digit percentages.  Approximately 65-70 percent of software products available in the Netherlands are imported.  The United States is by far the largest supplier (e.g. Microsoft and other multinational software producers) followed by European software producers in Germany, the United Kingdom and France.  Windows is the standard in the business market, although government and business are starting to use Linux as well.  While UNIX is still the most commonly used operating system for servers, Linux' market share is estimated at 15-20 percent and has now started to grow in importance.  The Dutch government announced a special program to promote the use of Open Standards and Open Source Software within the government.  The government and financial sectors traditionally have been major end-users of all types of software products.  The business market, with an increasing need to streamline business processes, has also been a significant user.  More recently the SME market has begun to emerge as an attractive new market for ICT suppliers, while the consumer market has also grown rapidly in recent years due to increasing use of the Internet, games and online gaming.


Computer Services - The services market is estimated at about USD  7.2 billion in 2003.  The services market is expected to continue to benefit from the implementation of new technologies and increasingly complex systems that require the expert knowledge of specialists.  Driving factors for further growth in the services area also include lack of in-house capacity, focus on core business, security concerns, as well as quality, cost and efficiency considerations. The growth in the use of the Internet and E-commerce in particular is expected to increase demand for external services, e.g. in the areas of CRM and procurement implementations.  The Netherlands has a large number of services providing firms ranging from very small to very large and from hardware vendors to management consultants. A number of U.S. firms have successfully established themselves in this market, primarily with local subsidiaries and through acquisitions.  They are expected to continue to do well, as others successfully enter the open Dutch market for the first time.  There is an ongoing tendency for larger Dutch services firms to merge or acquire other service companies and become more international.


Telecommunications Equipment and Services - The total telecommunications market in the Netherlands amounted to approximately USD 17.9 billion in 2003.  Approximately 85 percent, or USD  15.2 billion, of the total market consists of telecommunications services, while the remaining 15 percent consists of telecommunications products and equipment.  In the market for telecom services the business segment represents approximately 65 percent.  Fixed telephony still has the largest share of the telecommunications market followed by mobile telecommunications and data communications. 

Privatized since 1989, the market for telecommunications services is still dominated by KPN Telecom (former PTT).   KPN is active in all fields of telecom. While fixed line voice telephony was completely liberalized on July 1, 1997, KPN still has only a limited number of competitors in this market, particularly in the consumer market and local calls segment. Competitors include Telfort and Versatel.  The market for fixed telephony is shrinking as more customers replace fixed with mobile connections.  Five mobile telephone companies operate in the Netherlands: KPN Mobile, Vodafone, Telfort, Orange and T-Mobile.   Even with KPN still a dominant factor, the Netherlands belongs to the more liberalized telecom countries in Europe and has proactively promoted competition. OPTA, the Dutch independent regulator, is closely watching and stimulating competitive developments.  With number portability since 1999, carrier preselection and unbundling of the local loop in 2000, competition is increasing.  Competing carriers made major investments in fixed line networks in recent years, particularly in view of the growing demand for broadband services.  In the leased line services area, KPN is also still the dominant carrier.


The Dutch market for mobile telephony (GSM) is almost saturated.   There are some 12 million users and there is fierce competition between the operators.  New trends and technologies for mobile phones with built-in Bluetooth functions, color screens, digital cameras and Multi-media Messaging Services (MMS) functionality are expected to give a new impulse to the mature mobile telephone market.  Among the first in Europe, the Dutch government auctioned five new licenses for the use of IMT-2000/UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) frequencies for third generation mobile telecommunication during the summer of 2000.  The frequencies allow the mobile user high-speed data and video communications via phone. The UMTS licenses went to the five existing mobile operators.  Meanwhile Vodafone launched its first UMTS service in February 2004.  KPN will offer UMTS-based services to its business customers starting in July 2004.   Services for the consumer market will follow soon thereafter.  In 2002, KPN Mobile was the first European operator to introduce i-mode (a packet-based service for mobile phones using the GPRS network).  Meanwhile more than one million users purchased I-mode handsets in the Netherlands and Germany.

Cable (television) density is more than 90 percent in the Netherlands and there are some 90 cable companies.  The ten largest firms service about 98 percent of the Dutch cable market. Several cable companies offer telephony services, these include UPC and United Telekabel. More cable operators are expected to start offering telephony services this year.  Cable is also more and more used to access the Internet and reportedly has some 1 million Internet users.

Data communication is rapidly expanding and expected to gradually overtake voice telephony in importance as a result of the current Internet and E-commerce developments. The number of ISDN lines in the Netherlands is considerable compared to other parts of Europe.  In the business market, ISDN lines are mostly used to access the Internet, to communicate with subsidiaries and for telework.  The number of businesses and consumers using ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) to access the Internet has shown a sharp increase during the last one or two years. The market for wireless networking is still relatively small in the Netherlands.  Most hotspot providers currently target the Dutch business market.   KPN sees WLAN as an important component of its broadband strategy next to its current DSL, GPRS and UMTS.  The total market for WLAN products is estimated at about USD 22 million for 2003 and growing to about USD 28 million by 2004.

While estimated at only a few percent market share at this time, Voice over IP (VoIP), telephone communications via the Internet/Internet Protocol (IP) telephony is now becoming more popular and affordable.  It enables companies to get more value out of their existing IP and cabling infrastructure.  The total number of business users reportedly grew from less than one percent in 2000, to some six percent in 2003, or about 8000 companies.  The Dutch VoIP market was estimated at about USD five to six million for 2003.  Rapid growth is forecasted for the IP telephony market for 2004 and following years.

The telecommunications infrastructure in the Netherlands is of high quality.  The types of telecom channels being used are gradually changing.  The total number of fixed analog telephone connections (Public Switched Telephone Network/PSTN) is slowly decreasing.  There were reportedly about 6.3 million connections in 2002, down from almost 6.6 million in 2001.  Newer communications channels, e.g. ISDN, mobile communications and satellite reception, have grown substantially in recent years.   Cable, with more than 90 percent penetration, presents an almost saturated market.  The main network/backbone in the Netherlands is a fiber optic network.  Coax cable is being used from the regional station to the home. 


The City of Amsterdam hosts the AMX-IX, one of the largest Internet Exchanges in Europe.


Statistical Data 





2004 (est.)

2005 (est.)

Projected Average Annual Growth Rate for Following 2 years (%)

Import Market






Local Production












Total Market









Imports from U.S.






Exchange Rates

$ 1 = EU 0.85

$ 1 = EU 0.85

$ 1 = EU 0.85



Estimated Future Inflation Rate   1.5   %

 Last Year's estimated Import Market Share (Percent for US and Major Competitors): 

US: 30%; EU: 35%; Asia: 35%.


Market Size (USD millions)                             2003_

Computer Software                                        5,420              

Computer Services                                         7,235              

Computer Hardware                                       4,990              

Total IT Market                                              17,645            


Telecommunication Services                       15,245

Telecommunication Equipment                      2,610

Total Telecommunication Market                 17,855


Total ICT Market                                            35,500


Internet Use

1998 -  1.6 million users

2000 -  3    million users

2002 -  10   million users

2004 -  11   million users


Broadband Internet Users (2004)

Cable 1 million users

ADSL 1.5 million users


Mobile Phone Use

1998 -  3.5 million users

2000 -  9 million users

2002 - 11 million users

2004 - 12 million users


The above statistics are unofficial estimates.

 The total Netherlands market for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) amounts to about five percent of the total European ICT market and is the sixth largest in Europe. 



Sources used for this survey include information and forecasts from the European Information Technology Observatory 2004 (EITO 04), IDC, ICT Marktmonitor 2003-2004, and various trade contacts, vendors, trade journals and related independent market research studies about the ICT sector.


Best Sales Prospects 

The demand for fast Internet is currently growing rapidly in the Netherlands and the deployment of broadband connectivity is increasing both in the consumer and the business market.  There is wider use of the Internet and there are many new developments in E-business, E-government and E-commerce, as well as a trend toward more portable computing and use of new digital and converging technologies.  These developments, many of which first appeared in U.S. markets, are currently stimulating growth in the Dutch ICT market.   

IT products and services:  Best prospects for increased growth in the diverse IT products and services sector include:


Hardware - data storage equipment, all types of laptops/notebooks, handhelds, small/entry level servers, laser printers, color inkjet and multi functional printers, TFT and LCD screens;


Software - all types of standard applications, Internet and Intra- and Extranet software, networking software and network security products, development tools, Windows, Linux and UNIX-based products, storage management software, CRM and ERP products, application management and content management products, and game software for the consumer market;


Services - desktop and network management, application hosting, security services (assessments and scans) and all types of Internet and E-Commerce related services.


Telecom equipment and services:

Services - mobile and fixed line telephony services, cable services, broadband services, mobile (value-added) data services, generally, all types of  Internet related communication services, outsourcing and maintenance of infrastructure installation, VoIP services for the business market, security applications for mobile communications, entertainment applications, multimedia services and applications.

Equipment - communication security products and services, fiber-optic network products and products for broadband infrastructure expansion in general.



 The Netherlands offers a competitive, yet open ICT market and a liberalized telecom market, which is accessible and welcomes new investments, both foreign and domestic.  The Dutch government is committed to promote competition in the market and stimulates the use of new technologies, which strengthens the competitive position of the Netherlands. 

As the Dutch ICT market expands further, competition is growing among the companies already established in the Netherlands and those trying to enter the market.   By merging and partnering with other companies, some players in recent years have strengthened and expanded their range of services as well as their customer base, aiming to take a larger share of the market.

 In addition to a few large, often multinational corporations, there are several thousand Dutch ICT companies from very small to medium-sized companies.  Many of the smaller firms offer a unique service or a service that is targeted to a niche market.  Although conditions have changed considerably in the last few years, several new start-up companies are again starting to successfully enter the market with services that are mostly related to the Internet and E-commerce. 

 In addition to Dutch ICT companies, the Netherlands counts a large number of subsidiaries of U.S., European and far eastern ICT firms that have opened European headquarters, sales offices or distribution centers in the Netherlands.


Domestic Production

Domestic production in the ICT sector is rather limited, particularly in the hardware segment and to some extent also in the software market.  There are a few very large multinational companies in the ICT segment, e.g. Philips and Océ.  There is some production, but more recently actual production has been moved to Asian and Eastern and Central European countries with lower labor costs.  There still is a significant amount of research done in the Netherlands by these multinational companies.  With worldwide headquarters in the Netherlands, much of the overall management tasks are also performed in the Netherlands.  Hardware production primarily consists of product assembly from imported components or value added to products that are destined to be re-exported from the Netherlands to other European locations.

In the software/services segment, the Netherlands has a large number of software and services firms, from very small to very large firms and from hardware vendors to management consultants.  More than 30 percent of the services market is in the hands of the top ten providers.  They include: Atos-Origin, LogicaCMG, PinkRoccade, Getronics and CapGemini.   While services firms in the Netherlands primarily cater to the Dutch market at this time, they are looking more and more to expand their business outside of the Netherlands, particularly in other parts of Europe.  In addition to these large corporations, there are numerous small and medium-sized Dutch services providers that offer a unique service or a service targeted to a niche market.


3rd-Country Imports

 As part of the EU, many imports reach the Netherlands from other European Union countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom. In the hardware segment companies from Asia play a significant role, while central/eastern European countries are rapidly gaining ground.  In the software segment, Germany is an important player with companies such as SAP.  In the mobile telecommunications market, Finland with Nokia is a large importer of mobile phones. There is also a significant number of companies from non-European nations that assemble and produce elsewhere in Europe and distribute products from their factories throughout the European Union, e.g. from the United Kingdom and Ireland.


U.S. Market Position

 U.S. companies continue to play a dominant role in the Netherlands.  Despite growing competition they are expected to grow their market share based on the quality of products and services delivered and the fact that U.S. products generally incorporate the latest technological advancements available. Important factors that also contribute to the success of U.S. ICT companies in the Netherlands are their thorough knowledge and expertise in the ICT segment, implementation of new technologies, creative financing methods and advanced product and services marketing techniques.   The lower dollar exchange rate versus the Euro currently also positively affects imports from the United States.

 In spite of less favorable global economic conditions, growth forecasts for the ICT sector are moderately positive and several segments of the market show good opportunity for U.S. exporters interested in expanding their sales to the Netherlands.  Growth areas include particularly software and all types of Internet related services and products.   

U.S. ICT firms benefit from the well-developed ICT infrastructure and liberalized telecommunications market in the Netherlands.  A number of U.S. firms are well established in the Dutch market, primarily with local subsidiaries and through acquisitions.  These include IBM, EDS, Accenture, CSC, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, Dell, Sun, Unisys and others.  Most of these firms offer various products and services to multiple industry sectors.  More recently, smaller U.S. firms have entered the market with a sales office or by appointing a distributor to service a special market and/or concentrate on one or two industry sectors.

 U.S. firms by far form the largest group of non-Dutch ICT suppliers, and they are expected to remain in that position and possibly even increase their market share over the next few years. 




The top 100 Dutch companies, particularly those that process large amount of data such as multinational firms Shell Oil, AKZO-Nobel, Philips, DSM, and banking and insurance companies, e.g. ING-Group, ABN-AMRO and Rabo Bank and Fortis, have traditionally been the largest investors in all types of ICT products and services. The Dutch government, particularly Defense and Transportation have also considerably invested in recent years, as have the public utility and health care sectors. The consumer sector became a significant contributor to the growth of the hardware, software and mobile telecom segments.   Further growth is still expected in the business sector, while the SME segment is becoming a significant user of hardware and software products.  Medium-sized organizations are starting up new or formerly postponed ICT-projects.  

Important to the Dutch buyer of ICT products and services in general are: quality of the product/service delivered, reliability, flexibility and reputation of the supplier, innovative approach, and cost.  Sales cycles may differ quite substantially depending on the service or product required. Often a pilot project precedes the final choice in case of major investments.  On average service contracting periods do not exceed 3 to 4 years.   

In doing business with the Netherlands government, as a member of the European Union, the EU public procurement legislation requires the Dutch contracting authority to publish tender notices throughout the European Union if the amount of the contract is above a certain threshold.  Procurement opportunities that are open to U.S. companies are regularly reported by the U.S. Mission to the European Union.  Further information regarding these procurement opportunities may be obtained from:

U.S. Commercial Service

U.S. Mission to the European Union

Boulevard du Regent 40 Regentlaan

B-1000 Brussels


Phone: +32-2-5131228

Fax:     +32-2-5082675




D.  MARKET ACCESS                                  

The Netherlands ICT market is open and accessible to U.S. suppliers.  The Dutch government stimulates research and innovation in the development of software and other technology products and the application of new technologies to strengthen the competitive position of the Netherlands.  It supports entrepreneurs in starting up new businesses and developing innovative high technology products.  The Dutch government is also active in attracting new foreign technology investments to the Netherlands.  

Products imported from the United States are distributed and supported by representatives, as well as local sales offices.  Taking advantage of the Netherlands strategic location and Gateway to Europe function, its reputation for excellent transport and distribution facilities and relative ease of doing business, a large number of U.S. ICT companies have opened European distribution centers, headquarter offices, call centers and helpdesks.   

The country offers a professional and highly skilled and trained IT workforce, a neutral environment, and an advanced infrastructure with telecommunication and transport facilities. Furthermore, the climate is favorable to cooperative agreements and U.S. investments.  The Netherlands currently counts more than 1,600 U.S. companies that are established and doing business in the Netherlands, while representatives distribute products and services for some 7,000 U.S. companies, including many high technology firms.   

In planning to establish a presence in the Dutch market, the U.S. Department of Commerce Domestic Export Assistance Centers can assist with market research studies, matchmaker trade missions, trade contact lists, agent/distributor searches, credit reports on foreign companies and setting up overseas appointments through the Gold-Key service.  More than 100 U.S. Export Assistance Centers are located in cities throughout the United States.  Further information can be obtained by visiting our website at www.buyusa.nl or contacting your local Export Assistance Center or the Commercial Service directly in The Hague (see contact numbers at the end of this report).

Working in the Netherlands for longer periods of time generally requires a work permit.  Further information can be obtained through the Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C., phone (202) 244-5300, www.netherlands-embassy.org or one of the Dutch Consulates General.

Information regarding the actual establishment and location of a subsidiary office in the Netherlands may be obtained from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs at:

Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA)

One Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY 10020

Phone: (212) 246-1434

Fax:     (212) 246-9769

Internet: www.nfia.com


As a member of the European Union, the Netherlands has converted to the Euro monetary unit. 

The language spoken in the Netherlands is Dutch.  English is widely spoken and becoming a second language to many, particularly in the ICT sector.  About 77 percent of the population speak English. 


Import Climate 

As a member of the European Union, the Netherlands applies the EU common external tariff to goods imported from non-EU countries.  No tariffs or import duties are levied on computer software products entering the EU countries from the United States.  An import duty of 0-3.5 percent is levied on most computer hardware products.  A Value Added Tax (VAT) of 19 percent is assessed on hardware and software products based on their Cost, Insurance, Freight (C.I.F.) value plus the import duty at the port of entry.  Information about tariffs and duties can be obtained from the Dutch Customs: Belasting Douane, telephone: 011-31-45-5743031, www.belastingdienst.nl.


Legal framework 

The Telecommunications Act of 1998 contains the main telecommunication regulations for the Netherlands and is based on European rules. A new telecom regulatory package was approved by EU in early 2002.  This includes directives regarding access and interconnection, authorizations, universal service and users rights.  Although member states were to ensure full implementation by mid-2003, the changes did not go into effect in the Netherlands until mid-2004.  OPTA is the Dutch telecom regulator and watchdog.  General competition law in the Netherlands is laid down in the Competition Act and EU Treaty.  The Netherlands Competition Authority (Nma) enforces competition rules in the Netherlands.   Following European directives, the Dutch government is implementing laws and regulations concerning E-commerce, Internet and the use of computers.  The law regarding the protection of personal data aims at providing Dutch citizens more insight in the way their personal data are being used and at protecting their privacy.  The law went into effect in 2001. The law complies with the European Data Protection Directive of October 1995 and replaces the data protection act of 1989.   In 2001, a law concerning the protection of consumers who buy from a distance via the Internet, phone, fax and mail went into effect.


Distribution/Business Practices


ICT products and services are generally advertised in the traditional media, such as newspapers, radio and television.  With the growing importance of the Internet to gather and compare information and to order products and services, an important tool in the marketing of telecom products and services is the use of a website.  Use of the Dutch language prevails.  Brand advertising, database marketing and customer loyalty programs are common. Continuous innovation in this fast developing market is a necessity.                  


Banking facilities for international transactions in the Netherlands generally meet or exceed U.S. standards.  All banks are accustomed to various international banking transactions.   More information about banking in the Netherlands can be obtained by contacting: 

The Netherlands Bankers' Association (NVB)
P.O.Box 3543

1001 AH  Amsterdam

The Netherlands

Phone:  +31-20-5502888

Fax:    +31-20-6239748.


Payments in the Netherlands are usually agreed on a net 30-day basis. Dutch companies on average paid two to three weeks after the agreed upon term.

 Trade Promotion Opportunities

 The main ICT trade events in the Netherlands are held at either the RAI Exhibition Halls in Amsterdam, or in the Royal Netherlands Jaarbeurs in Utrecht.  Tradeshows held at

these exhibition sites are listed on their websites: www.rai.nl and www.jaarbeurs.nl


ICT Trade events held in the Netherlands include:

 - International Broadcast Convention (IBC) 2004, RAI Amsterdam, September 9-13,   2004  - www.ibc.org

- Infosecurity 2004, Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, October 13-14, 2004 www.infosecurity.nl

- The ICT & Networking Event, RAI Amsterdam, April 19-21, 2005 www.tine.nl

- TCD 2005 TeleCommerce Days, Jaarbeurs Utrecht, April 26-28, 2005 www.tcd2003.nl

- Overheid en ICT 2005 (Government and ICT), Jaarbeurs, Utrecht, April 26-28, 2005 sites.vnuexhibitions.com/sites/overheid-en-ict/nl/index.asp

- AudioVisual Manifestatie (AVM) 2005 MediaPark, Hilversum, www.broadcastpress.nl/avmanifestatie


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