Research and Innovation towards the development of 5G Communication Networks has been subject of significant support and political commitment from Europe, especially under the Horizon 2020 programme. The European Commission has notably run in cooperation with industry the 5G Public Private Partnership as a research and innovation vehicle to structure and steer European research in this domain and prepare the ground for the 5G deployment agenda in line with the 5G Action Plan for Europe.

EU research under the 5G-PPP aims at fostering Europe's technological know-how and industrial leadership in 5G networks. It also aims at investigating the emerging technologies that will prepare the beyond 5G era. The research results are intended to shape 5G standards, validate relevant spectrum identification and to support a global 5G vision. Dedicated working groups on architecture, vision, spectrum, standards, technology evaluation, trials, automotive, security etc., in view of consolidating the results of the relevant European research projects have been set up under the 5G-PPP.

Roadmap about the 5g research and standards

The Case of Standards and Spectrum

Standardisation of 5G started in early 2016 under the umbrella of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the key standardisation body for global mobile communication systems. A first wave of standards is available through the 3GPP Release 15 and a second wave is under development and should be available by 2020. The EU aims at continuing to influence the technological definition of future communications systems (5G and beyond) and consequently the standards through its advanced research. The European Commission identifies 5G standards as one of the five priority areas under the Digitising European Industry initiative.

Similarly, 5G spectrum identification officially started at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) of the ITU to define 5G dedicated spectrum above 6GHz by 2019. In this context, EU research provides for the assessment of the applicability of the various bands under consideration.

Europe's 5G Research Plan

The 5G research is funded by the Horizon 2020 EU's research and innovation programme and is organised in 3 phases:

Phase 1: The future 5G network architecture

The 5G PPP phase 1, covering the 2015-2017 period, has delivered important results on core 5G technologies. Beyond advances in classical radio and network performances, cloud computing technologies have also emerged as key technologies to enable customer tailored platforms.

The European Commission launched on 1st July 2015 19 research projects with a budget of EUR 129 million to tackle these issues and to provide the essential elements of the future 5G network architecture. Their key achievements are the technological foundation for future 5G networks, and have extensively contributed to the 5G standardisation process.   

Phase 2: Move towards demonstration and experiments with the involvement of the vertical industries

The 5G PPP phase 2, spanning the period 2017 – 2019, expands these results and establishes closer relations between the 5G community and vertical industries. The second phase targets a move towards proof of concepts and experiments. It actively involves the vertical industries, which are anticipated to be part of the main users of future 5G networks.

The European Commission launched 21 projects on 1st June 2017, for a total funding of around EUR 150 million. Many new stakeholders (more than 60% of phase 2 participants) have joined the PPP, enabling the projects to initiate demonstrations and experiment of 5G technologies in contexts closer to the different types of future networks users (people, robots, cars, “things”, etc.)

Phase 3: End to end 5G platforms, connected and automated mobility, trials across vertical industries and long term 5G evolution

The first wave of the 5G PPP phase 3 will consolidate the results of the previous phases through integration of an end-to-end 5G experimental network infrastructure. Three EU funded projects have been launched on 1st July 2018 and are building end-to-end platforms connecting more than fifteen trial sites in ten different EU countries. The resulting infrastructure will be used to validate the technological options in a full system context, and to validate the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the 5G ​PPP.

The second wave of phase 3 is supporting pilots over cross border corridors for Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM). The European Commission launched three research and innovation projects on 1st November 2018, covering three of the cross-border corridors agreed by neighbouring Member States. The main target is to leverage vehicle connectivity to create complete ecosystem around cars and vehicles, serving not only safety related use cases but also a rich set of applications including maintenance, insurance, infotainment, driver’s assistance and autonomous driving.

The third wave will support the implementation of trials and pilots, dedicated to demonstrate the applicability of 5G network for vertical industries use cases (media and entertainment, industry, health, transport and automotive, energy, …) running on top of the 5G end-to-end platforms from the first wave. A number of projects, with a maximum total funding of EUR 90 million, are expected to be launched by mid-2019.

The last wave, planned to start in 2020, will address the long term evolution of communication systems, investigating technologies not yet, or not fully, addressed under the 5G PPP, and paving the way towards smart connectivity systems beyond 5G.

Beyond research

A 5G vision paper was developed together with the 5G PPP in 2015, along with the ongoing research and to support the development of the 5G research and standards. It describes the main innovation and use cases of 5G networks and clarifies the European 5G vision.

The European 5G vision places vertical industries, like the automotive sector, in the centre of 5G use cases. It revolutionises the way today's networks are designed and function. 5G networks are considered as flexible network platforms that can adapt to the versatile requirements of specific digital business use cases, such as those anticipated for autonomous driving, smart factories, remote healthcare and smart energy provision.

Since then, the European Commission and the 5G PPP have worked on many aspects deriving from this vision, like the requirements of various verticals or the Pan-European 5G Trials Roadmap. White papers and roadmaps capturing the results of this ongoing collaboration are regularly published.

As a follow up to Research and Innovation work, the European Commission is also collaborating closely with Member States and industry on the different steps of the implementation of the 5G Action Plan published in 2016, preparing for an effective and coordinated deployment of 5G networks among EU countries.