Three out of every four people living in the EU can’t access 4G/LTE mobile connections in their hometowns, and virtually no rural area has 4G, the European Commission has revealed. Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the three EU member states that don’t have 4G at all.
Only three other member states, Germany, Estonia and Sweden, have advanced roll out of 4G.
What’s more, Europe has barely 5pc of 4G connections and subscriptions globally, whereas in the US, more than 90pc of people have access of 4G.
“I’m on the side of the citizens, the taxpayers, the voters, who just want their phones and tablets to work,” said Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for the Digital Agenda.
“It’s frustrating when my phone stops working in Brussels because we only have 3G. Millions share my frustration every day.
“This is no way to run an economy,” Kroes said. “It means also that Europeans living in rural areas and those on holiday get treated like second-class citizens. It doesn’t matter where you are, you pay money for a device and mobile subscription and it should work.”
Kroes added that the EU is teetering on the edge of network collapse.
Global mobile traffic is predicted to increase 66pc a year, smart devices are everywhere, and consumers want to watch video on those devices, she said.
“Without more spectrum being made available the whole thing falls apart,” said Kroes.
Problems despite availability of spectrum
Knowing there is an increase in demand for data, the EU has made huge amounts of spectrum available to meet the needs of high-speed wireless broadband. Ireland, for example, held 4G spectrum auctions.
However, spectrum is actually allocated at the national level, the European Commission said.
National-level problems have caused procedural and licensing delays, while auctioning processes have left mobile operators with little cash to roll out networks. Combined with the fragmentation of 28 national markets, it means the mobile operators have no real possibility to develop an EU-wide mobile strategy, according to the commission.
The consequence is that users suffer and the EU lags behind globally when it comes to 4G.
One step the European Commission is taking to address the issue is seeking consultation on far greater co-ordination of spectrum licensing. This would allow operators economies of scale which could come from rolling out 4G in the same spectrum band in several countries at once, and means consumers get more 4G access sooner.
Ireland can expect its first 4G services to arrive in late summer or early autumn.