EU sets out plans for free public Wi-Fi and 5G minimum by 2020

16 Sep 2016

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker

The EU is looking for a complete overhaul of the union’s telecoms rules, to include setting a minimum requirement of 100Mbps in every household and a 5G minimum connectivity of urban centres by 2025.

The intentions of the EU were made clear during the State of the Union address by President Jean-Claude Juncker. This would leave member states with the considerable challenge of overhauling their entire telecoms infrastructures.

As part of his statement of intent, President Juncker set out three objectives that he proposes should be met by 2025 to would bridge the connectivity divide between rural and urban areas.

Three main objectives

The first objective is to ensure a minimum standard of 100Mbps broadband speed in member states, regardless of whether a property is in a major urban area or rural village.

States should also have the flexibility to upgrade to broadband capable of reaching more than 1Gbps.

The second objective relates to the roll out of 5G mobile connectivity, which remains largely operational on a trial basis. A number of European mobile operators have already begun early trials of the technology.

Under the proposal, all urban areas in a member state – including major roads and railways – would have access to uninterrupted 5G coverage by 2025.

However, an interim target has been set that every member state should make 5G commercially available in at least one of its major cities by 2020.

An ambitious €500bn proposal

The final objective proposes that all of a member state’s main socio-economic drivers – including universities, research centres and hospitals – should have access to a minimum of 1Gbps broadband.

Such targets will require massive investment, the EU admitted, putting an estimated cost of €500bn on achieving its targets – an investment that will come largely from private sources.

With a realistic expectation that there will still be an investment shortfall of €155bn, the EU has also proposed a new European Communications Code that would increase competition among telecom operators, offer stronger consumer protection and ensure a better use of radio-frequencies.

Outside of these three key objectives, the EU also announced its WiFi4EU proposal, which will create a €120m fund to roll out Wi-Fi to a minimum of 6,000 local communities by 2020.

As part of the proposal, citizens would have free access to Wi-Fi connectivity in public areas, such as in public buildings, or in parks and squares.

During the State of the Union address, President Juncker said: “We need to be connected. Our economy needs it. People need it. And we have to invest in that connectivity now.”

President Jean-Claude Juncker image via ID1974/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic