The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday laid out a series of internet connectivity goals as part of its State of the Union assessment, aiming in part to deliver widespread 5G coverage by 2025.
According to the Commission, all urban areas as well as major transportation corridors on roads and rail lines should have “uninterrupted 5G coverage” by 2025. Serving as a milestone to this long-term target, the EC said each European Union (EU) member state should offer commercial 5G service in at least one major city by 2020.
The goals comprised just one of three main connectivity objectives laid out by the EC on Wednesday. The others two objectives specified that all main socio-economic drivers – including schools, research centers, transportation hubs, hospitals and enterprises using digital technologies – should have access to gigabit connectivity, and that all European households should have access to download speeds of at least 100 mbps by 2025.
The EC said the widespread deployment of 5G will be driven by its newly released 5G Action Plan, which includes a schedule for a coordinated commercial launch of 5G in 2020. The plan includes objectives for EU member states and industry players to open up more spectrum for 5G, organize and conduct pan-European 5G trials by 2018 and promote common global 5G standards.
“Connectivity is a key prerequisite for Europe’s digital future: The Internet of Things, digitization of industry, cloud, big data – all this demands secure and ubiquitous connectivity, with the best speed and quality,” Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger said. “Europe has the ambition to lead on the deployment of 5G. It is time to move to a gigabit society and make sure all Europeans, whether in the countryside or in cities, can get access to a quality internet connection.”
According to the EC, intensive investment will be required to meet these objectives. The commission estimated $561 billion (500 billion euro) will need to be spent over the next decade to reach its goals, but said current investment trends indicate there could be as much as a $174 billion (155 billion euro) investment shortfall.
The EC said it has proposed an update of the current EU telecom rules – last updated in 2009 – to help close this investment gap. The new rules would help stimulate competition to drive investment, the commission said.
Under its 5G Action Plan, the commission said it is also working with investors on the possibility of providing venture capital funds for start-ups developing 5G solutions. The funds would be used to help bring new services – like automated cars, drone deliveries and virtual reality applications – to market.
“We need to be connected,” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Our economy needs it. People need it. And we have to invest in that connectivity now.”
The EC’s move to push for 5G leadership comes on the heels of action from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July to open up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum for 5G.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has heralded the move as “one of, if not the most important decision this agency will make this year.” Wheeler has said the ruling will also help the United States maintain its leadership position in telecom technology.