5G networks and services will be available from 2020 and will be the backbone of our future economy and society. Today at the Mobile World Congress, the European Commission and the 5G Public-Private Partnership (5GPPP) have outlined how the manufacturing, health, energy, automotive, media and entertainment sectors could use 5G to digitise their business models and what performance targets 5G should deliver for them to adopt it.

The 5G PPP – launched by the European Commission in 2013 -  brought together experts from the telecoms and  IT field and from companies and organisations most likely to rely on 5G , including Volkswagen, Volvo, Peugeot, ERTICO, ABB, Bosch, European Broadcasting Union. Their know-how fed into a white paper which identifies potential uses of 5G for each sector, pinpoints specific technical cross-sector requirements.

Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society said  "We are trying not only to develop a communication network to connect people, but rather one that will deliver the Internet of Things, connecting anything that can be connected and delivering innovation on top of connectivity. Making 5G a reality in Europe by 2020 will be essential for the success of key sectors like automotive, health and digital manufacturing. This is a chance to reinforce the competitiveness of European industry". Read the Commissioner's full speech and blog

5G use cases that are already around the corner

The white paper presents a series of use cases that are considered most realistic today for a deployment in 2020. They should form the basis for a consolidated set of 5G requirements that will feed the standardisation process of 5G.

  • The automotive sector considers that 5G will be used for cooperative automated driving so thousands of vehicles can exchange information between each other in real-time. For the lightening-speed data transmission time (low latency) of 5G networks means that future connected cars will have a "see through" security application which enables the user to see the road much far ahead of the vehicle in front of them, overtake safely and avoid accidents.
  • The health sector finds 5G useful for assets and interventions management in hospitals, for robotics for remote monitoring and for smart medication. For example, 5G could improve the quality of experience of surgeons using operating robots. The super-fast data transmission of 5G networks would mean that a robot surgeon reacts instantly to instructions or movements by a surgeon performing a virtual operation remotely.
  • Smart factories. 5G could be useful for time-critical process control, factory automation, remote control, enterprise communication and connected goods. It would be vital for robot-based manufacturing processes where the detection of an incident may require ultra-fast response from the network.
  • Energy. 5G will be essential for grid access, as a grid backhaul and a grid backbone. It could help energy companies balance supply and demand in a future when a growing proportion of energy is generated by solar and wind (sometimes unpredictable) and the growing number of electric vehicles place varying and unpredictable demand on the network. 
  • The Media and entertainment sector will use 5G for Ultra High Fidelity media, on-site live event experience, immersive and integrated media, cooperative media production and collaborative gaming. For instance, games based on virtual reality could be played across continents, or football games watched in 3D and with immersive lenses from a living room but as if you were in the stadium.

Cross-sector requirements for 5G

  • The white paper illustrates the benefits of building a common 5G network that could address the specific requirements of various sectors. While a dedicated network for each industry would not be economically attractive, 5G can pool their needs together and make it affordable. It will transform networks into service platforms where industries will be able to find dedicated advanced services for their own specific needs, supplied from a variety of vendors and operators.
  • The paper also presents the consolidated requirements derived from the various use-cases put forward by the vertical markets: latency (the end to end delay in communicating data over the network must be below 5ms), reliability - (the network must be operational for at the least 99.999% of the time), density (able to connect up to 100 devices/m2), , along with tight constraints on territory and/or population coverage and mobile broadband peak terminal data rate up to 1 Gb/s are the most important performance targets 5G needs to achieve. They also outlined spectrum requirements. These findings will be very useful to guide the standardisation process, which has just started and will be completed by 2020.

International negotiations

The Commission will refer to the concepts and technical parameters this vision paper when it takes part in crucial international negotiations on spectrum and standards for 5G. The aim is include closely involve all industrial sectors in these discussion and decisions so that Europe is among the first continents to deploy "true" 5G connectivity .

High-level discussions

At Mobile World Congress, top-EU decision makers and officials will also have high-level talks on how digital can transform our economy and society. For example, Commissioner Oettinger will discuss the future needs for connectivity with leaders of the automotive business. Vice-President Ansip will discuss connectivity, electronic identity and other issues in a panel on mobile as the foundation for digital. More details of the European Commission agenda at Mobile World Congress


In December 2013, the Commission launched a Public-Private Partnership on 5G (press release - factsheet). The EU is investing €700 million by 2020 in this partnership under Horizon 2020. EU industry is set to match this investment by up to 5 times, to more than €3 billion euros.

The Commission has recently made an important step to pave the way for 5G in the EU. Earlier this month, the Commission presented a proposal to coordinate the use of the 700 MHz band for mobile services (press release). Mobile operators using the 700 MHz band will be able to offer higher-speed and higher-quality broadband (i.e. without service interruption) to consumers and cover wider areas, including rural and remote regions. It will enable Europe to move ahead and provide mobile broadband speeds beyond 100 Mb/s and catch up with leading regions in 4G mobile broadband take-up (like South Korea or the USA). As soon as specific 5G standards and associated technology and equipment are available by 2020, mobile operators will be in a good position to roll out 5G services. Further steps to coordinate spectrum in the EU and to incentivise private investments in 5G networks will be part of the forthcoming review of EU telecoms rules foreseen by the end of 2016.

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