Ireland signs EU 5G roadmap but calls for clarity on State aid rules

5 Dec 2017

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD. Image: John Kennedy

Ambiguity in State aid rules will hold up fibre and 5G investment, warns Minister Naughten.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, TD, has endorsed the 5G Action Plan for Europe with aims to deliver the European ‘Gigabit society’ by 2025.

The move comes as it has emerged there will be no ‘shovels in the ground’ for the oft-delayed and EU-supported National Broadband Plan until at least mid-2018.

‘We can look at fibre as the new electricity system of tomorrow’

The 5G Action Plan for Europe is a political timeline designed to send a clear message to businesses ready to invest in the next generation of mobile networks that the EU is serious about moving towards 5G.

However, while everyone is in agreement that the fifth generation of mobile will require faster speeds and a more dense concentration of masts, a global 5G standard has yet to be agreed by the telecoms industry.

Either way, the EU Telecommunications Council yesterday (4 December) held a policy debate on the Free Flow of Data proposal, which sets the rules for the flow of non-personal data between EU member states.

Crossed wires on state aid?

Naughten said that in building out the networks of the future from fibre to wireless 5G services, more clarity is needed on EU State aid rules.

“Investment in infrastructure for connectivity is key to developing European 5G, and that is what I am committed to in the roll-out of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan. We can look at fibre as the new electricity system of tomorrow, and I am pleased to report that there was unanimous agreement amongst ministers on the importance of fibre.

“I have asked the European Commission today to provide clarity going forward in respect of State aid rules on infrastructure investment. The ambiguity in respect of the rules in this area causes delay in State investment, and it also makes private investment decisions more difficult. We need a combination of public and private investment to roll out state-of-the-art 5G in Ireland and the EU in the future.”

On the Free Flow of Data proposal, Naughten said that it goes hand in hand with 5G, and will be crucial to evolutions such as smart cities and the internet of things.

“The proposal, which is one we have long called for, represents a significant opportunity for Europe in setting the rules around the free movement of non-personal data. In the long term, this will be essential in order to realise fully connected future smart cities.

“The internet of things is exploding. Between now and 2020, every second of every day, 600 ordinary items will be connected to the internet. In the short term, free flow of data will make it easier for all businesses to use and store data across EU borders, and should lead to increased competition in data storage and software solutions,” Naughten said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years