Europe is seeing a “clear lag” in the launch of commercial 5G, with less than half of the EU Member States currently operating services, according to an assessment paper published by the European Round Table for Industry (ERT).
The paper noted that concern is growing that Europe is far behind other world regions, in spite of being home to two globally leading mobile infrastructure companies, actively engaged in the global roll out of the technology. The paper also noted that implications are multi-dimensional, affecting citizens’ access to faster connectivity, virtual and augmented reality services and industrial competitiveness in areas such as artificial intelligence, B2B data-sharing, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.
ERT highlighted that only 10 5G base stations per million people have been deployed in 5G-active EU Member States, compared to 1,500 base stations per million capita in South Korea.
On upgrading 4G base stations to 5G, only 1% have been upgraded in Europe, compared with 98% in South Korea. Finally, the assessment highlighted that the share of the subscriptions using 4G networks is around 70% in Europe in 2019, significantly lower than in the US, China and South Korea, where it reaches around 90%.
The report also noted that two-thirds of EU-27 countries have not yet allocated mid-band (3-5 GHz) spectrum, whereas South Korea and China allocated this spectrum band in June 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“The acceleration of the digital transformation experienced during the first half of the year has provided a pointed and timely reminder of why Europe urgently needs to invest in 5G roll out. Europe has significant industrial strengths which can underpin 5G deployment, yet as this latest assessment report shows, it is lagging behind other regions in both commercialization and infrastructure for 5G. Only a third of EU countries had assigned mid-band spectrum by the spring of this year – a performance far behind South Korea, China and others. We have to do better,” said Martin Lundstedt, chair of ERT’s Committee on Digital Transformation.
“To close the gap we urgently need a ‘European deal’ to roll out 5G ̶ one which delivers a more harmonized approach to 5G spectrum, assignment and operation and better regulatory incentives for private investment. 5G is at the heart of our digital future – and digital will empower energy transition, innovation and a whole new world of employment opportunities. It is vital to the success of the EU Green Deal. Everything is connected – that’s why this is such a fundamental part of the equation,” Lundstedt added.
ERT also highlighted that Europe has been slower than other regions in 5G large-scale commercial services. For example, Verizon in the U.S. launched 5G commercial services using high-band spectrum in April 2019. By contrast, the first commercial services were only available in seven European countries three months later, and several have still today seen no 5G commercial launches. Overall, only 13 EU Member States have launched 5G commercial services, ERT said.