Europe needs €300bn to reach ‘full-5G’, says report

25 Mar 2021

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The report from a telecoms lobby group states that Europe needs to make significant investments in 5G roll-outs to realise the full potential of this tech.

Up to €300bn needs to be invested in Europe’s 5G roll-outs, according to a new telecoms industry report.

The report, published by Boston Consulting Group and European telecoms lobby group ETNO, stated that 5G can add €113bn annually to Europe’s GDP and create 2.4m jobs by 2025. But it added that Europe has lagged behind the US and Asia in deploying large-scale 5G networks.

Superfast 5G networks have held great promise in terms of boosting economies and various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing and the arrival of autonomous cars. A recent PwC report stated that 5G could add $1.3trn to the global economy in the next decade.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the European Commission has said repeatedly that digital investments will play a huge role in recovery.

However, this latest report said that €150bn is needed for Europe to reach a “full-5G scenario”, with a further €150bn needed for upgrading fixed infrastructure.

In 2020, several EU member states postponed their 5G spectrum auctions due to the pandemic, causing delays in roll-outs in a year that was expected to be a tipping point in 5G development.

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Among its proposals, the report suggested altering rules to allow telecoms companies and network operators to share infrastructure and investments, such as joint ventures on fibre and 5G spectrum sharing.

“One such step is pursuing new ownership models involving voluntary infrastructure sharing, which can allow faster roll-out, reduced overall environmental impact, and increased knowledge transfer among partners,” the report said.

The report also said that telecom operators should be able to monetise the data traffic carried on their networks, taking aim at tech giants like Google and Facebook that cause significant loads on networks.

“[Our] revenues remain sluggish, both when compared with companies running data-heavy activities on top of our networks and when compared with those of non-European telecom companies,” the report stated. “This unbalance, over the past years, has already damaged the speed of Europe’s roll-out. More delays are foreseeable unless we create the right conditions for growth.”

Wolfgang Bock, managing director at Boston Consulting Group, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how much people rely on telecoms infrastructure and future investments should reflect that.

“We need to learn and apply that lesson to ensure Europe makes the necessary investments to be able to remain competitive.”

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

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