The European Union (EU) has signed a major ministerial declaration to bring together the bloc’s member states and combine their collective resources to realise the potential of 5G mobile networks across the EU, and make Europe a global leader in future mobile networking technology.
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Signed in Tallinn, Estonia, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, the declaration of intent sets out to establish a common baseline on 5G standards in Europe, and confirm the willingness of the bloc’s members to position Europe as a lead market.
“Everybody and everything will be using 5G networks to communicate in the future, and I am very glad that we managed to sign the declaration,” said Urve Palo, Estonian minister for entrepreneurship and IT.
“This indicates that all member states are thinking about the future and are willing to boost connectivity and Europe’s digital competitiveness to the next level. 5G will allow faster internet connections across Europe and make it possible to develop new technologies, such as connected cars, innovative industrial machines and e-health initiatives,” added Palo.
Current estimates hold that there will be 26 billion connected devices in use worldwide and 70% penetration of the worldwide population just three years from now, therefore Brussels wants 5G to form the backbone of its Digital Single Market strategy.
The declaration itself sets out a number of steps that EU members are committing to take around encouraging the fastest possible roll-out of 5G and related services. It stresses the need to create the right preconditions to help the technology meet its potential, including making more spectrum available and co-ordinating frequencies across borders.
“5G ensures smooth and nearly independent connectivity not only for individual users, but also for various devices in different business sectors,” said Estonia’s Palo.
The EU has previously set out a number of ambitions around 5G. During this year’s Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona, it released a report saying that taking a vertically focused approach to 5G would be extremely important. Its report identified a number of industries that will be well-placed to take advantage of 5G in various ways, including autonomous vehicles, healthcare and manufacturing.
In spite of this, there are some who still believe that whatever 5G ambitions are set out at the government level, Europe will inevitably lag somewhat behind extremely advanced economies such as Japan and South Korea.
A recent analyst report suggested this might be partly because European mobile operators feel the need to extract the maximum possible return on investment on existing 3G and 4G infrastructure.
Besides the 27 remaining EU member states, the declaration was also signed by Norway and the UK. The UK government has previously set out its own ambitions and strategy around 5G, and committed millions of pounds to fund the construction of some of the first pilot networks by leading academics in this country.
However, despite previous statements from Westminster insisting that purposefully excluding British industry and research from cross-EU efforts as a result of the 2016 vote to leave the bloc will not have a negative effect, the true impact of Brexit remains unknown.