Günther Oettinger launches fifth generation mobile technology (5G) Action Plan

Barcelona: EU's digital economy Commissioner warns that Europe cannot afford to fall behind in race to develop 5G mobile technology.

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

26 Feb 2016

Announcing the Action Plan initiative earlier this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, digital economy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said he viewed 5G adoption as the "most important goal" of his mandate.

The German commissioner said that the successful 'digitisation' of Europe was pivotal in delivering the EU's economic and social goals and would be a "fundamental precondition and source of competitiveness for decades to come".

The European commission believes that the development and spread of 5G mobile technology will be a key in enabling the successful adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things, big data and robotics.


"For the first time in the development of communication networks, we have the ambition to develop an infrastructure that also meets the need of specific industrial markets beyond the ICT sector," Oettinger said.

"In the future, we will not only connect people, we will connect everything - from the car to the watch; from the electricity grid to the traffic lights."

5G is expected to massively expand the traffic-handling capability of mobile technology. Ultra-high speed internet, 100 times faster than currently available, will become the norm, allowing for example, virtually instantaneous downloading of movies onto mobile devices such as smartphones.

"5G is a fantastic opportunity to create an entirely new breed of digital ecosystems where networks can be used as platforms to provide new specialised services."

He also suggested that providing Europe's key digital industries - as well as other so-called "vertical" sectors, such as the automotive, health and energy industries - with the benefits of a 5G network would be "a huge opportunity" for reinforcing the EU's competitiveness.

However, Oettinger warned that transformation on such a mass-market scale would also be a "huge challenge".

"We are not talking about merely replacing  one infrastructure with a better one. We are talking about providing a global "platform" to enable several industries and the public sector to invent new services, and in some cases to re-invent themselves entirely."

Oettinger is keen to get buy-in for his plans from the ICT sector and consulted with leading industry CEOs earlier this year on developing a coordinated cross-sectoral strategy.

Sources close to the commissioner told this website that he chose to make the 5G action plan announcement at the Mobile World Congress precisely so that he could meet with and discuss his updated ideas with the industry's most senior figures.

Oettinger’s comments were echoed by Guo Ping, Huawei's Deputy Chairman and one of its three rotating CEOs, who was also attending the Barcelona conference.

"Before 5G arrives, we need to get started. We need to increase connectivity, create new business models and new business value. This is necessary to support the integration of 'vertical industries' and enable the digitisation of traditional industries, thus driving forward the digital revolution," said Guo.

Oettinger wants the Action Plan to be focussed and not to target more than five or six areas. These should include a commonly agreed deployment calendar, the involvement of vertical industries and spectrum access.

He also wants to have everything in the Action Plan agreed and ready to be adopted by December this year.

"At this stage, this is an open process and the Commission has no pre-conceived priorities.