5G: EU must rethink business models and policies

5G's success will depend on rethinking business models, policies, regulation and economics, especially on spectrum, says Afke Schaart.

By Afke Schaart

03 May 2016

In a growing and diversifying Europe, the telecommunications sector is increasingly becoming a key enabler for technological development and innovation across all sectors of the economy. One of the main contributing factors will be the development of 5G and the potential of this technology for the digitalisation of industries within Europe.

While the continent is making good strides in terms of research and development of 5G, deployment remains some years away. The intervening period, while the technology matures, will determine the success of the service and its impact on the numerous sectors of the economy that increasingly depend on mobile infrastructure.

That said, it is essential that the mobile industry guides policy in this critical area. Otherwise, Europe risks falling victim to policy regimes that hold back the potential of new services, while also setting unrealistic expectations on what can be achieved and when. 


The GSMA has been working with operators and players across the ecosystem to better drive the debate around the 5G development - the right applications, the right technical characteristics and the right spectrum policy. This initiative will strengthen our policy engagement on a number of issues, including 5G spectrum, timely deployments and ways to foster infrastructure investments.

We have identified four key policy challenges that must be met to ensure a successful rollout of 5G. Firstly, stimulating innovation. Policies and rules should support innovation and be future-oriented, so that all players in the digital value chain are empowered to innovate.

Secondly, incentivising infrastructure investment. The climate for fixed and mobile network investment should be improved by significantly simplifying the current regulatory environment.

Thirdly, creating a clear and predictable policy framework, including spectrum. Additional harmonised and affordable spectrum is needed, with a view to allowing timely rollout and maximising network investment. This should be via a regulatory environment that provides clarity, certainty and predictability.

Finally, clear deployment timelines including standardisation and collaboration with verticals. Continued efforts in the 5G Public Private Partnership (5G-PPP) and the 5G Action Plan are crucial in ensuring that standardisation delivers both economies of scale and interoperability.

The success of 5G depends not only on underlying technologies but also in rethinking business models, policies and economics around radio spectrum regulation, supporting a variety of new mobile capabilities.

Ensuring that the mobile revolution continues and expands requires that policymakers adopt a future-oriented, pro-innovation and investment policy framework that empowers and provides all players in the digital value chain with the flexibility to develop and grow.


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