Andrus Ansip: EU will be left behind in 5G race without coordinated spectrum roll out

Mobile World Congress: EU's digital single market chief calls on member states to support telecoms sector with less fragmented approach to spectrum allocations.

Andrus Ansip | Photo credit: Natalie Hill

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

28 Feb 2017

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday, Ansip, the European Commission's Vice President in charge of the digital single market, said, "What we need to make the 5G vision a reality is to make spectrum available throughout [the EU's] digital single market."

To "ensure adequate coverage across Europe" spectrum roll, "must be consistent, timely and under conditions that favour major investments."

The Estonian Commissioner told the packed audience of telecoms industry chiefs, sector analysts and mobile tech journalists that Europe, "already has the instruments to align technical conditions for spectrum use. And we are working hard to prepare key pioneer bands."


"But," he added, "I cannot stress enough the importance of also having EU-wide coordination of the economic conditions of spectrum use."

These conditions, he explained, include the rapid roll out of new spectrum bands, as well as clear and open procedures surrounding the sales, trading, leasing and sharing of 5G spectrum licences.

Ansip hoped that his call for a less fragmented approach will help ensure EU capitals don't repeat the mistakes they made rolling out 4G spectrum allocations - an approach now considered to have been so slow and disjointed in comparison to countries such as the US that it severely delayed the introduction of new mobile technology services across Europe.

Ansip, who recently added digital economy and society to his Commission portfolio, said, "When 4G came along, Europe was slow to push ahead. We do not want to make the same mistake with 5G."

"The alternative", he warned, "is to risk being left behind in the fast connectivity age.

"We rely on EU countries to support our telecoms industry and the broad digitisation of industry. I urge them to do so - and to start cross-border 5G trials."

He also told participants at the event, which included his Washington counterpart Ajit Pai, Chair of the US Federal Communications Commission, that "we want to avoid global fragmentation, or interoperability gaps where people's mobile connections become patchy when they travel overseas."

While avoiding the regulatory "light touch" overtures favoured by Pai, Ansip argued, "We should avoid short-term decisions and early choices that could set a 5G standard in stone and make it hard to change later.

"That kind of commercial-based pressure is something that the world's emerging 5G community does not need."

He called for a common understanding on the deployment of 5G, saying, "I know it may take a little longer to reach a consensus, but it is worth the effort for the global market reach. This is why global coordination is so important at this stage of developing 5G standards."



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