The European Commission takes further steps in the Digital Decade agenda to strengthen Europe’s digital sovereignty, as announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address. The Commission has published a Recommendation calling EU Member States to boost investment in very high-capacity broadband connectivity infrastructure, including 5G, which is the most fundamental block of the digital transformation and an essential pillar of the recovery. The timely deployment of 5G networks will offer significant economic opportunities for the years to come, as a crucial asset for European competitiveness, sustainability and a major enabler for future digital services.
Executive Vice-President for a Europe fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Broadband and 5G connectivity lay the foundation for the green and digital transformation of the economy, regardless if we talk about transport and energy, healthcare and education, or manufacturing and agriculture. And we have seen the current crisis highlight the importance of access to very high-speed internet for businesses, public services and citizens, but also to accelerate the pace towards 5G. We must therefore work together towards fast network rollout without any further delays.”
With the Recommendation the Commission invites Member States to come together to develop, by 30 March 2021, a common approach, in the form of a toolbox of best practices, for the timely rollout of fixed and mobile very high-capacity networks, including 5G networks. Such measures should aim to:
- Reduce the cost and increase the speed of deployment of very high capacity networks, notably by removing unnecessary administrative hurdles;
- Provide timely access to 5G radio spectrum and encourage operators’ investments in expanding network infrastructure;
- Establish more cross-border coordination for radio spectrum assignments, to support innovative 5G services, particularly in the industry and transport fields.
The Recommendation also sets out guidance for best practices to provide timely access to radio spectrum for 5G as well as ensure stronger coordination of spectrum assignment for 5G cross-border applications. This is particularly important to enable connected and automated mobility, as well as the digitisation of industry and smart factories. Enhanced cross-border coordination will help to provide Europe’s main transport paths, particularly road, rail and in-land waterways, with uninterrupted 5G coverage by 2025. However, until mid-September 2020, Member States (and the UK) had assigned on average only 27.5% of the 5G pioneer bands. It is therefore essential that Member States avoid or minimise any delays in granting access to radio spectrum to ensure timely deployment of 5G.