European telecoms groups ask: what happened to the 5G manifesto?

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A year after the release of Europe’s big plan for 5G a bunch of industry associations have expressed their disappointment over the lack of progress.

When the 5G Manifesto was unveiled last year everyone uncorked champagne and threw streamers in celebration of the continent’s apparent resolve to do everything needed to ensure 5G global competitiveness. A cascade of further initiatives, consultations and grandiose statements followed all of which, everyone involved agreed, went very well.

For all the talk of collaboration and general cross-border collective effort, as the root of the Manifesto was an entente cordiale between the European private and public sectors, with the former hoping to get cash and legislative assistance from the latter in return for some easy political grandstanding around 5G. Today’s announcement infers the private sector doesn’t think the public sector is delivering its end of the deal.

Our Associations are concerned about the current legislative debate on telecoms reform,” said the joint statement from a bunch of telecoms associations including ETNO and the GSMA. “Unfortunately, discussions seem to have lost their focus on the importance of 5G as one of the key technologies that will underpin the ecosystem and the competitiveness of newly connected sectors of the European economy.”

There then followed the usual stuff about what a big deal 5G will be and hence why it’s important to get it right. Specifically the statement wants the reform of telecoms regulation to achieve the following:

  • A regulatory environment that puts investment at its core, including a cross-sectorial perspective;
  • Pro-innovation rules that allow the development of new business models and services across sectors and ensure that the development of IoT and machine-to-machine services is not hampered;
  • A harmonised and predictable spectrum policy;
  • Flexible privacy requirements empowering innovation in data-driven markets and through mobile connectivity.

A year down the line the group fears the Eurocracy has lost sight of those aims and needs to get back on track. Cold, hard cash isn’t mentioned but it goes without saying that a juicy chink of tax-payer cash wouldn’t do any harm either.

“Currently, the outlook for innovators appears quite grim,” concluded the statement. “There [is] little focus on easing regulatory burdens; on the contrary, there are plans to further increase rules and complexity. This extends to both the Electronic Communications Code and to the new ePrivacy Regulation.

“Our Associations therefore call on all the EU institutions to maintain a high level of ambition to ensure that the strategic 5G objectives remain at the core of Europe’s digital reforms. The upcoming regulatory choices on telecoms and privacy laws need to be fully coherent with the overarching aim of increasing network investment, allowing more space for innovation, boosting the competitiveness of Europe’s vertical industries and creating further choice for European consumers.”

Those are a pretty vague set of demands, but that’s probably the kind of language you need to use when dealing with the Eurocracy. The group can rest assured that the EC will pull out all the stops to produce a generic, non-committal response before the end of the year.

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