As the European Union moves closer to the digital single market (DSM) and the European Commission reviews the telecoms framework, the GSMA sees an opportunity for policymakers to position Europe at the forefront of the global digital economy through leadership in 5G.
Europe is making progress on 4G network deployment. Approximately 90 per cent of the population is currently covered by 4G and, by 2020, nearly 60 per cent of all mobile connections will be 4G.
Despite heavy investment in infrastructure, Europe lags behind global leaders, such as the US and South Korea, in mobile broadband deployment and consumer adoption.
Europe has an opportunity now to embrace the next generation of mobile, alongside the mobile industry, as 5G technology is defined, developed and deployed. This will help achieve the potential of the DSM by establishing fast and secure communication networks that will drive growth, jobs and competitiveness.
5G is a critical enabler of the Internet of Things, which could reach six billion connections across the EU by 2020.
We have identified seven areas that require reforms that will drive continued innovation and future 5G deployment.
The first step in creating a supportive policy environment is to adjust the aims of the European telecoms framework to prioritise continuous network investment, which will be required if we are to achieve the long-term interests of European consumers.
Mobile spectrum licences should have clearer renewal terms, with a shift to perpetual licences in the long term. As more spectrum is released, the need for caps should fall, while action is needed on fees, reserve prices and obligations.
Policymakers should prioritise mobile when designing policies to address wider goals and the delivery of public services. Many of these goals will be achieved commercially if the other actions proposed are implemented.
The EU should also seize the opportunity to deregulate mobile services where competition exists, acknowledging the changing competitive landscape and new sources of competition from internet players.
Instead of extending regulation, efforts should be made to improve our understanding of, and to develop tools for assessing, the factors that contribute to high-performing mobile markets.
The investment levels needed to drive European leadership in 5G can only be achieved if the costs of mobile network deployment are significantly reduced. The Commission should further reduce the costs of mobile network deployment, including site costs, spectrum fees and other taxes.
Finally, this 5G vision requires mobile operators to build new types of networks to meet the needs of a variety of applications.
Current regulations, which fail to recognise the different requirements of different applications on the network, may inhibit the development of the next wave of applications, raise network costs and deter network investment.
Together, these actions can enable higher levels of investment, promoting the roll-out of advanced mobile services across the industry and public sector, and tackle barriers to digitisation in the wider economy and society.