Written by Mar Negreiro.
In September 2016, the Commission put forward new strategic connectivity objectives for 2025 as part of its digital single market strategy. These should prepare Europe for the roll-out of the next generation of broadband infrastructure with gigabit speeds, including both fixed and mobile internet access (5G). Once available, from 2020 onwards, 5G is expected to enable an array of new innovative services that will transform sectors such as manufacturing, energy, vehicle manufacturing and health, bringing them into the era of the internet of things.
Given its importance for EU competitiveness, the Commission is speeding up 5G by co-financing research and development. The 5G-PPP public-private partnership is the largest initiative of its kind in the world, with €700 million in EU funding, to be topped up with private funding to reach a total budget of €3.5 billion by 2025.
There is some concern that not all consumers and businesses in Europe will benefit from the gigabit society, given the current and future digital divide between urban and rural areas and across EU countries. For example if gigabit speeds and 5G are available only to areas with high demand, users are likely to be highly reluctant to pay for it as many new services will need continuity across borders and geographic areas.
Progress in building the European gigabit society is expected once an updated EU telecoms framework is in place. This will enable high levels of investment in network infrastructure and increased policy coordination across Member States, for instance increasing spectrum harmonisation for 5G and co-investment of deployments.
Both the proposed European Electronic Communications Code and the 5G action plan are of high importance for the Council and Parliament, and essential if the EU is to take the lead in the global 5G race.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Towards a European gigabit society: Connectivity targets and 5G‘.