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Europe reveals its big plan for 5G

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Europe’s leading telecoms companies have all endorsed a ‘5G Manifesto’, which is positioned as a roadmap for the development and deployment of 5G across the continent.

The Manifesto seems to have been developed in response to prompting from the European Commission, which called for a 5G action plan at this year’s MWC. European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Gunther Oettinger, who is having a busy day, was pleased with their work.

“I very much welcome the 5G Manifesto and discussions today with the high-level industry group,” said Oettinger. “These will help us focus on the key levers to ensure European digital leadership in 5G. I will come forward with a 5G Action Plan in the autumn.” There is also a public consultation on 5G development in Europe.

You can access the Manifesto, with all its signatories, as a PDF here: 5G Manifesto. All the major operators are represented, as well as Ericsson and Nokia. As a non-European company it looks like Huawei wasn’t invited to the party but that hasn’t stopped Tony Graziano, VP of Huawei’s European Public Affairs and Communication Office, from getting involved.

“We fully support the 5G Manifesto presented today, and are determined to play our part in living up to its ambitions,” said Graziano. “To ensure that Europe leads in the 5G race, industry investment and innovation-friendly regulation must go hand-in-hand. Today’s Manifesto outlines how we can foster the collaboration and investments required to make 5G a European success story.”

The GSMA also had its say. “As mobile technology progresses towards 5G, Europe has a critical opportunity to reclaim a leading digital role and extend fast mobile connectivity to all of its citizens,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer of the GSMA. “Because 5G is still a nascent technology, the steps we take today to foster an enabling environment will be crucial in ensuring the future success of this technology and in re-establishing Europe’s position as a leader in innovation.”

So everyone’s happy about the Manifesto, but what does it actually say? The document puts a lot of emphasis on what 5G can enable, especially when it comes to the digitalisation of the European economy. Without using the term even once, this seems to be a strong reference to IoT, with lots of talk of vertical industries, industrial applications and virtual network slices.

A key passage concerns public investment in 5G R&D. “In addition to funding research and innovation projects of the 5GPPP, the European Commission should consider allocating funds to trials and large-scale demonstrators as well as establishing a 5G Venture Fund to foster a new wave of start-ups and innovation around 5G technologies,” says the Manifesto.

Other than that there is lots of the usual talk about common standards, ecosystems and consensus. Pan-European 5G trials are being split into before and after the anticipated first hard 5G standard in the middle of 2018. There is one passage concerning regulation that calls for a level playing field – implying the companies think that’s currently not the case – and  a warning that current net neutrality guidelines “create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment,” especially if they restrict network slicing.

Operators and network vendors are, of course, already doing loads of research and collaboration over 5G, but it looks like coming up with this manifesto was a prerequisite to being given a nice lot of EC cash, so here it is, along with an patriarchal pat on the head from Oettinger. The European telecoms industry has jumped through the EC hoop but it remains to be seen whether this Manifesto represents anything more substantial than that.

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