I am very glad to announce the delivery of an important and hopefully useful piece of work with stakeholders towards 5G deployment in Europe.
The Commission has published a Report summarising the best practices and common elements that could be considered for national 5G strategies. The work done with EU Member States covers key issues that range from deployment targets, spectrum and small cells to public financing programmes and 5G innovation support. We believe these findings are useful guidance for Member States in setting appropriate framework conditions and supporting 5G take-up in their countries, fully in harmony with the European perspective.
The 5G Action Plan
Let me recall the Commission’s 5G Action Plan from 2016. We called on Member States and stakeholders to work together in Europe and worldwide to ensure the early commercial launch of 5G by 2020, and full rollout by 2025. In particular, we invited Member States to adopt national 5G roadmaps and integrate them in their National Broadband Plans. This call was amplified by EU ministers in Tallinn last year, where a common 5G roadmap for the EU was agreed.
Another important milestone was reached this summer, when an agreement on the new Electronic Communications Code was settled. In particular, the Code establishes in European law modernised rules on 5G spectrum, including setting 2020 as a deadline for the assignment of 5G pioneer bands, and creating planning certainty for license duration, as well as for voluntary coordination of non-technical license conditions.
Beyond legal frameworks, concrete cooperation among Member States is also needed to implement the common 5G roadmap and make the 5G Action Plan a reality. We took advantage of the expertise available in the Communication Committee of Member States as a platform to make this cooperation happen.
The report shows that the two most critical issues appear to be spectrum assignment and facilitating the deployment of small cells. In spectrum, it is key to ensure that mobile operators and other users get the resources they need to deploy real 5G services. A number of key conditions are addressed in the report that will be important to achieve coverage and quality. As regards facilitating small cell deployment, it covers a broad set of issues, such as the need for fibre backhaul, options for classification of cells to permit procedures, and related requirements including electro-magnetic field limits are provided. A number of avenues for future work are also outlined, including the planned Implementing Act on small cells pursuant to Article 56 of the Code.
Key opportunities for 5G innovation that are especially relevant for the public sector are also identified. Several Member States have looked in more detail into 5G for public safety applications and opened new avenues for future cooperation. The joint work on pan-EU 5G corridors for Connected and Automated Mobility services was also stressed in the report as a strategic area of cooperation. In general, public-private partnerships on strategic 5G use cases and good coordination at European level were highlighted.
Another interesting area addressed in the work was public financing of mobile networks. The Commission has set high ambitions at EU level to provide mobile connectivity wherever people live, work, gather or travel. Whereas most investment into mobile networks should come from the private sector, areas of market failure and public interest have been clearly recognised, and here public financing can play an important role. One example is mobile connectivity in rural areas, another one is 5G infrastructure along major transport paths to support, amongst other initiatives, Connected and Automated Mobility services. As part of the EU’s next multi-annual financial framework, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Digital proposal could well be instrumental in unlocking such ambitious infrastructure investments.
Let me thank the colleagues from the national administrations, as well as my team, who made this report possible. I hope it will be a useful reference when designing the next steps needed to make 5G a success in Europe and worldwide!