Oettinger: EU's prosperity depends on how it masters the digital transition

European digital economy and society Commissioner Günther Oettinger is confident that he can make 5G a reality and help Europe secure its digital leadership.

Günther Oettinger | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

14 Oct 2016

European digital economy and society Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said that Europe's future prosperity depends on how it "masters" the "digital transition." 

The German official, who is tasked with championing the EU's digital agenda, declared, "It is time to move to a gigabit society." He was speaking at a recent event about spreading 5G wireless broadband technology across the EU.

His remarks come in the wake of the publication earlier this year of the '5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe'.


Addressing the FT-ETNO summit in Brussels, he said the manifesto had been developed by key players in telecoms and in sectors which will use 5G technologies and services in the future, such as automotive, health, energy, media and manufacturing.

The manifesto outlines the main opportunities and challenges linked to the deployment of 5G infrastructure in Europe. In particular, he said, it provides recommendations for "a common vision and a calendar for deployment" in Europe, investments, standards and the synchronised introduction of services. 

He said the initiative underlines the need for the coordination of radio frequencies and improved regulatory conditions to support innovation.

According to the Commission, all urban areas as well as major transportation corridors on roads and rail lines should have "uninterrupted 5G coverage" by 2025. Serving as a milestone to this long-term target, Oettinger told the summit that each member state should offer commercial 5G service in at least one major city by 2020.

Oettinger, who was one of the keynote speakers at the event on 27 September, said, "Connectivity is a key prerequisite for Europe's digital future: the Internet of Things, digitisation of industry, cloud, big data - all this demands secure and ubiquitous connectivity, with the best speed and quality."

He told the one-day conference, entitled, 'The role of telecoms in a digitising world', that Europe "has the ambition to lead on the deployment of 5G. It is time to move to a gigabit society and make sure all Europeans, whether in the countryside or in cities, can get access to a quality internet connection."

He added, "Our economies and societies are going digital. Future prosperity will depend largely on how well we master this transition. Europe has strengths to build on, but also homework to do, in particular to make sure its industries adapt, and its citizens make full use of the potential of new digital services and goods. 

"We have to prepare for a modern society and will table proposals balancing the interests of consumers and industry."

Oettinger said he "very much" welcomed the 5G Manifesto and the aim now is to "focus on the key levers to ensure European digital leadership in 5G."

As part of its efforts to make 5G a reality, the Commission also launched its 5G action plan on 14 September and is working with investors on the possibility of providing venture capital funds for start-ups developing 5G solutions. 

Oettinger believes that widespread deployment of 5G will be driven by the new action plan, which includes a schedule for a coordinated commercial launch of 5G in 2020.

The plan includes objectives for EU member states and industry players to open up more spectrum for 5G, organise and conduct pan-European 5G trials by 2018 and promote common global 5G standards.


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