Latest Analysis of 5G Roll-out in Europe Reveals Slow Progress

By Chantal Polsonetti

Technology Trends

As agitated geopolitics and disinformation cast a shadow on the deployment of 5G technology in various countries, the European Round Table for Industry (ERT) released an Assessment paper on the roll-out of this telecommunication technology in Europe.

With the realization that 5G is an essential strategic component of Europe’s digital transition and a driver of the next generation of industrial innovation, concern is growing that Europe is far behind other world regions, in spite of being home to globally leading mobile infrastructure companies, actively engaged in the global rollout of the technology.  The analysis purports that the implications are multi-dimensional, affecting citizens’ access to faster connectivity, virtual and augmented reality services and industrial competitiveness in areas such as artificial intelligence, B2B data-sharing, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.

The ERT paper identifies a clear lag in the launch of 5G commercial services with more than half of the EU-27 yet to launch such services.

The analysis points to deficiencies in infrastructure, citing that only ten 5G base stations per million capita have been deployed in 5G-active EU Member States, compared to one thousand five hundred base stations per million capita in South Korea.

The analysis goes on to say that Europe fares equally poorly in upgrading 4G base stations to 5G, with just one percent having been enhanced this way, compared with ninety-eight per cent in South Korea.  This is also due to legacy issues from the delayed roll-out of 4G in many EU Member States.  The share of subscriptions using 4G networks in the US, China and elsewhere is significantly higher – another factor which puts 5G roll-out in Europe at a significant disadvantage to other world regions.

The Assessment paper follows an earlier paper on the regulatory framework for 5G issued by ERT in March of this year.  One of the critical factors in the roll-out of 5G commercial services is spectrum availability – in several EU Member States, telecom operators have been allowed narrower bandwidth in mid-spectrum than other countries in Asia.  This, combined with significant variations in spectrum licensing auctions in some EU countries, is hurting the bloc’s ability to scale up the technology in line with its ambitions. 

The full report can be downloaded here.

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