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Telecoms ministers from around Europe have agreed on a European Union (EU) roadmap for the development of 5G mobile networks, establishing common ground on the harmonisation of radio spectrum bands and how they will be allocated to mobile network operators (MNOs), and thereby paving the way for mass deployment of 5G across the EU.
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Spearheaded by the Estonian government, which currently holds the EU Presidency, the roadmap lays down a timeframe for 5G roll-out, and sets a new objective of having 5G connectivity in large cities and along the major transport routes of every European country by 2025.
“The 5G roadmap lays out major activities and their time frame. With the roadmap, we agreed on plans for harmonising the technical use and purpose of the 5G spectrum and the allocation to telecommunications operators,” said Urve Palo, Estonian minister for entrepreneurship and IT.
“It is no secret that a digital Europe is a priority for the Estonian Presidency, however, a digital society cannot be created without 5G networks.
“These 5G networks are needed both for citizens and the devices that require reliable and high-speed internet access to cope with increasingly large quantities of data,” she added.
Alongside the latest 5G roadmap, Palo also revealed progress on a number of projects taking shape under the European Electronic Communications Code, including proposals made by the European Parliament on intra-EU calls, and national reverse-112 emergency call systems, which she said both addressed “serious concerns for our citizens”.
The initial declaration setting out the EU’s 5G ambitions was signed by the UK government in July, even though it is scheduled to leave the EU before the first 5G networks are deployed in earnest in early 2020. However, all current indications seem to suggest that the UK will align its future telecoms policies very closely with the EU’s after Brexit.
The government has already set out a number of its own ambitions for 5G – with the goal of making the UK a world leader in the next-generation mobile networking standard.
In the Autumn Budget, it handed out £160m from the multibillion-pound National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) to run a number of 5G testbeds and trials.
UK falling behind in 5G
However, many in the industry have argued that with commercial deployments expected within two years, the UK is in danger of falling behind, and the government needs to begin to think about investing in the physical roll-out of 5G networks.
In South Korea, for example, communications service provider (CSP) KT is currently working with Intel to put the finishing touches to the world’s first broad-scale 5G network that will offer visitors to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang a taster of what will be possible with 5G, including features such as gigabit wireless access, ultra-low-latency video and livestreamed immersive content.