5G: A future legacy
The European Commission must review its 5G roadmap to ensure deployment of this crucial technology, writes Michał Boni.
A better generation of internet, and the next wave of the digital revolution, can be enabled by 5G. It should be understood as an ecosystem, with its own unique set of requirements, conditions, needs, opportunities and players.
It will change how we view productivity and transform many vertical industries. 5G will provide a strong foundation for the data-driven economy, thus changing the economy horizontally.
It will generate completely new services through various apps and systems dedicated to personalised healthcare, new approaches to education, autonomous vehicle, tailored entertainment and commercial services that are fully adjusted to customers’ expectations.
However, we need to know more about 5G as a unique system and all its technical challenges. Therefore, all partners - and above all the European Commission, in cooperation with industry and research institutions - must test and re-test solutions relating to network latency and responsiveness, increased network capacity and data rate requirements.
It is crucial to speed up the work on standardisation and to stimulate 5G trials in cooperation with ITU. The completion of specification will give industry the green light to accelerate design and implementation of equipment adhering to these standards.
It is equally important for low-frequency bands, midrange and high frequency spectrum. For proper implementation, the spectrum needs of 5G can be segmented into three key frequency ranges.
These reflect the desire to deliver widespread coverage and capacity: to 1GHz, between 1- 6 GHz, and over 6 GHz. This is the crux of one of the most significant issues - spectrum allocation decisions delivered at EU level in a harmonised and timely manner.
Harmonised spectrum allocation is necessary for ultimate success of 5G. It requires common understanding of our 5G objectives in all member states. All countries should work with the stakeholders to finalise preparations on national broadband plans, adjusted to 5G’s specific needs and requirements. We need 5G strategies at regional level, for example in the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
The European institutions have a political duty to encourage countries to develop these strategies. Europe needs to accelerate deployment of networks to meet the needs of businesses and citizens.
We cannot establish a 5G ecosystem without the adequate environment for investments. Finding complementary financial resources for 5G in the current and in all future EU budgets, in the CEF, in EFSI and in national envelopes for cohesion policy is essential.
The key is to incentivise business to invest. 5G will require a step-up in investment in mobile access points and supporting fixed infrastructure.
Achieving dense deployment of 5G infrastructure requires a future-oriented, pro-investment and pro-innovation mindset and simplification of the rules. This means long-term licenses, infrastructure-based competition, flexible conditions for co-investment-sand certainty for business models.
It also means removing the barriers to deployment, including right-of-way for the installation of passive facilities, supportive municipal site rental charges, removal of taxation on sites and antennas and predictable, harmonised electromagnetic field emissions limits adjusted to modern knowledge, not emotional stereotypes. Above all, we must finish our work on the European electronic communications code(EECC), which is almost completed.
Within this legislative framework, we must also find, accept and implement the most adequate solutions for the success of 5G. All partners need to be more flexible, while Member states need to focus on long-term goals rather than the current network problems.
In addition, the Commission must adopt a stronger position to support investments. Building the 5G ecosystem requires a proper roadmap. A strong 5G dialogue must be further developed between vertical industries and the telecoms sector.
It is important to have well-designed expectations and a clear view of consumers’ future benefits and advantages and a list of required decisions, frameworks and targeted actions. Work on standardisation must be based on industry-led processes, tests and large-scale pilots in all sectors involved as well as in all countries.
In addition, we are likely to need to establish a European communication campaign on the advantages of 5G for users. This could create stronger demand for 5G solutions.
A new, redefined roadmap could help set up a timescale for the launch of pre-commercial 5G trials, early 5G networks, and - hopefully before the end of 2020 - fully commercial 5G services.
The timescale could also set out when to make pioneer bands available ahead of the WRC-19 - although it remains to be seen if member states will be ready - starting with 5G in at least one major city in each member state in 2020.
In the last year of its term, the Commission should focus on finalising some of the vital preparatory works and starting the real implementation of the proper EECC.
Politically, it should push for the maximum level of harmonisation possible on spectrum allocation decisions and on reshaping the timetable in cooperation with all countries and partners, making it a realistic goal. Doing this would make the 5G roadmap one of this Commission’s most important and visible legacies.
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