Croatian Presidency pushes for new Commission 5G and 6G action plan

Pedestrians pass a mobile phone store in central London, Britain, 15 January 2020. [EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN]

The European Commission is under pressure to propose a revised Action Plan for 5G and 6G mobile telecommunications as a means to bolster the bloc’s connectivity, according to a draft text from the Croatian Presidency of the EU seen by EURACTIV.

The move comes as 5G telecommunications in Europe face a setback with spectrum actions across the bloc facing delays, while the technology itself becomes blighted by fictitious claims that it has played a part in the coronavirus outbreak.

In the document, the most recent draft of a working paper entitled Shaping Europe’s Digital Future currently being discussed by member states, the Presidency also notes the importance of achieving connectivity across the EU while the coronavirus outbreak has exposed Europe’s patchy coverage areas.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for fast and ubiquitous connectivity, but that in many European regions this is not yet put in place,” the draft notes, adding that as a result, the Croatian Presidency “calls on the Commission to put forward a revised Action Plan for 5G and 6G.”

“These steps should set the right framework to enable operators and service providers all stakeholders to invest in the most advanced 5G network and service solutions, in line with competition law principles, and to incentivise European companies to start developing and building technology capacities in 6G.”

The Croatian Presidency would like their revisions to be considered by member states by 5 May, before which time nations have been asked to submit their feedback. An earlier version of the draft had called upon the EU to learn the lessons from the public health pandemic as a means to chart a more ambitious future in the digital domain.

More broadly, the recent text also notes the importance of charting a path forward with the EU’s plans for a Digital Services Act – the EU’s bid to regulate the online ecosystem, potentially covering areas such as disinformation, political advertising and offensive content, due to be presented by the end of the year, but which is likely to be delayed until early 2021.

Moreover, the most recent text also includes a section on media policy, highlighting the importance of promoting long-term sustainability in the news sector.

“Quality journalism, a diverse and independent media landscape, transparency and a strong promotion of media literacy are of particular importance in the digital transformation process and crucial for the European democracy,” the draft notes.

LEAK: EU in push for digital transformation after COVID-19 crisis

EU Member States and the European Commission should “thoroughly analyse the experiences gained from the COVID-19 pandemic” in order to inform future policies across the entire spectrum of the digital domain, leaked Council documents seen by EURACTIV reveal.

A previous Commission Action Plan for 5G surfaced in 2016, when the executive set out a number of objectives including a common EU timetable for a coordinated 5G commercial launch in 2020, as well as greater harmonisation on the allocation of 5G spectrum bands.

However, the current pandemic has brought to light the difficulties in achieving the bloc’s 5G goals, after the recent news that several EU nations, including Poland, Spain, Austria, Portugal and the Czech Republic have all delayed their 5G spectrum auctions. Moreover, last month, Slovenia stopped the implementation of 5G in the country.

Such delays led Ericsson CEO Borje Ekholm to express caution at Europe’s future in the field of next generation mobile telecommunications, saying recently that while the bloc has been “successful in improving our position in Europe, we are concerned that 5G investments in Europe are delayed.”

Europeans seek 'lawful’ ways of intercepting 5G communications

The European Commission is working alongside Europol and EU member states to “identify appropriate ways of preserving lawful interception capabilities in 5G networks,” said Ylva Johansson, the EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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