The "fifth generation" of telecommunication systems, or 5G, will be one of the most critical building blocks of our digital economy and society in the next decade. Europe has taken significant steps to lead global developments towards this strategic technology.

5G will provide virtually ubiquitous, ultra-high bandwidth, and low latency "connectivity" not only to individual users but also to connected objects. Therefore, it is expected that the future 5G infrastructure will serve a wide range of applications and sectors including professional uses (e.g. Connected Automated Mobility, eHealth, energy management, possibly safety applications, etc).

5G will also be the “eyes and ears” of Artificial Intelligence systems as it will provide real-time data collection and analysis. At the same time, it will bring the “cloud” to a new dimension by enabling the distribution of computing and storage throughout the infrastructure (edge cloud, mobile edge computing).

Europe shaping the 5G Vision

Having identified the 5G opportunities early, the European Commission established a Public Private Partnership on 5G (5G PPP) in 2013. This is the EU flagship initiative to accelerate research and innovation in 5G technology. The European Commission has earmarked a public funding of EUR 700 million through the Horizon 2020 Programme to support this activity. EU industry is set to match this investment by up to 5 times, to more than EUR 3 billion. These activities have been accompanied by an international plan to ensure global consensus building on 5G. 

EU investment in 5G research and standards is necessary to support the traffic volume expected by 202 but also to boost networks and Internet architectures in emerging areas such as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things (IoT)

5G standards are one of the five priority areas under the recently launched Digitising European Industry initiative.

To ensure early deployment of 5G infrastructure in Europe, the Commission adopted in 2016 a 5G Action Plan for Europe with the objective to start launching 5G services in all 28 Member States by end 2020 at the latest, followed by a rapid build-up to ensure uninterrupted 5G coverage in urban areas and along main transport paths by 2025.

To monitor the progress of the 5G Action Plan the Commission launched the European 5G Observatory in 2018, a monitoring tool concerning major market developments in Europe in a global context. It also reports on preparatory actions taken by Member States such as spectrum auctions and national 5G strategies. A report on the main elements for consideration in such national strategies from a European perspective was published in October 2018.