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Concerns mount for Europe’s “clear lag” in 5G services

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Europe is seeing a “clear lag” in the launch of commercial 5G, with less than half of the EU 27 currently operating services.

As such, there is growing concern that Europe is now behind other world regions, despite being home to two major mobile infrastructure companies, actively engaged in the global rollout of the technology.

The findings were published on Friday in a European Round Table for Industry (ERT) assessment on the roll-out of next-gen telecommunication tech in Europe.

The assessment read: “With the realisation that 5G is an essential strategic component of Europe’s digital transition and a driver of the next generation of industrial innovation… The implications are multi-dimensional, affecting citizens’ access to faster connectivity, virtual and augmented reality services and industrial competitiveness in areas such as artificial intelligence, B2B data-sharing, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.”

Taking stock of the situation, the assessment confirmed one third of EU countries had assigned mid-band spectrum by spring 2020, which is behind the pace set by South Korea, China and others.

On the deployment of infrastructure, only 10 5G base stations per million capita have been deployed in 5G-active EU Member States, compared to 1,500 base stations per million capita in South Korea.

On upgrading 4G base stations to 5G, only 1% have been enhanced in Europe, compared with 98% in South Korea. Finally, the assessment highlighted that the share of subscriptions using 4G networks in the US, China and elsewhere is “significantly higher”, another factor putting 5G roll-out in Europe “at a significant disadvantage to other world regions”.

The report continued: “The acceleration of the digital transformation experienced during the first half of year has provided a pointed and timely reminder of why Europe urgently needs to invest in 5G roll-out. Europe has significant industrial strengths which can underpin 5G deployment, yet as this latest assessment report shows, it is lagging behind other regions in both commercialisation and infrastructure for 5G. Only a third of EU countries had assigned mid-band spectrum by the spring of this year – a performance far behind South Korea, China and others. We have to do better.”

The news broke at the end of last week as China marked 12 months of 5G service. In that time, it has seen take-up reach 110 million active 5G subscriptions, although as a share of the country’s total 1.6 billion mobile subscribers, overall market share remains low.

The figures were released by the China Academy for Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), which operates under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Once verified, they would confirm China’s place as the world’s largest 5G market by size.

 

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