EU tech standards team returns from discreet China trip

EXCLUSIVE / A delegation of senior European standards officials spent six days in China last month to explore scope for mutual work on 5G standards amongst other technology-related issues, EURACTIV has learned.

Leading personnel from the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) toured China on 20-25 April to consider “approximation between regulatory framework policies”, the group told EURACTIV in a brief of the visit.

BEREC is the European Commission’s chief advisory body for standards in the telecoms and Internet sector.

The BEREC delegation included chairwoman Fátima Barros, vice-chairman Wilhem Eschweiler, chairman-designate Marc Furrer, and vice-chairs Kevin O’Brien, Lidia Koz?owska and Pedro Ferreira.

The group met with officials from the Chinese government, universities, the Internet Society of China, China’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology, and Hong Kong authority’s offices of communications and commerce and economic development.

They also met key private sector players active in China’s IT sector, including Baidu, Ericsson, Huawei, DJI Dajiang Innovations Technology and PCCW.

Standardising the Internet of Things

5G and the Internet of Things were amongst the tech related issues discussed during the six-day visit. Others included China’s electronic communications sector, education, research and development, mobile penetration and e-commerce.

“There is a strong drive for the development of 5G technology, which will be crucial to support the growth of the Internet of Things,” according to a briefing note on the trip, seen by EURACTIV.

Despite focusing on the European market, BEREC has a remit for international engagement “to represent its regulatory positions and to exchange experiences with international contacts”, according to the note, offered in answer to questions from EURACTIV about the trip.

“Given the ever-increasing volume of electronic communications flowing in and out of the EU and the global nature of most developments, policies, legislation and regulations have to be seen under a more global perspective,” the note added.

Regions outside the EU and non-EU regulators have expressed their interest in the European regulatory approach, the note said, adding: “This could lead to an approximation between regulatory framework policies, which would ultimately promote competition, investment and improve social well-being.”

The European Commission is seeking a leadership role in developing new generation telecom networks using 5G technology (see background).

Trip comes in wake of Commission’s 5G PPP launch

Earlier this year (3 March) delegates to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona were presented with grand European plans for developing 5G networks.

>> Read: Commission talks up 5G as member states wilt on telecoms

“With the Internet of Things, we see a new era of connectivity where billions of devices exchange data and instill intelligence in our everyday life. From watches to shoes. From fridges to heating. From hospitals to factories,” Oettinger told delegates.

“With 5G, telecom operators should be able to provide specialised network services to a series of new industry partners: from the automotive, to rail, health or energy sectors,” the German Commissioner subsequently told journalists during a press conference.

Oettinger was joined at the conference by representatives from nine global tech firms signed up to the 5G Public Private Partnership (PPP). These included chief technology officers from Alcatel-Lucent, Docomo, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung.

Oettinger stressed that the PPP aims to lay an open foundation for standardisation, with full industry and geographical cooperation.

Last year Korea, this year China?

“I am optimistic that with your leadership, we will avoid a ‘war’ on standards, contrasting clearly with the situation at the start of the previous generations of communications systems,” the German Commissioner said addressing business leaders, referring to the onset of 3G and 4G networks.

The move sees a growing tie-up between the EU and Asia, following an agreement reached last year to team up with South Korea on 5G.

The EU is hoping the Asian country’s expertise will help it catch up in a field crucial for economic growth and jobs.

South Korea has one of the fastest mobile broadband networks and is home to Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker.

Oettinger signalled his intention to sign similar agreements with Japan, China – possibly as early as this year – and the US.

A China-EU Summit, scheduled to be held this June in Brussels, is mooted by some in the sector as an opportunity for the two regions to launch an official partnership on 5G.

Europe led competition in GSM technology in the 1990s, but fell behind the US and Asia in the rollout of faster 4G connections.

A 5G mobile network would offer connections able to cope with the ever-increasing number of mobile internet users and hyper-connectivity, sometimes called the Internet of Things.

The EU said in December 2014 it would spend €700 million ($953 million) on 5G technology research over the next seven years, while companies in the telecoms sector would provide more than €3 billion.

The EU launched launched a 5G Public Private Partnership last Spring with €700 million earmarked under the Horizon 2020 Research and innovation programme, while industry partners have committed to leverage the EU funding by up to five times.

“The digital economy is simply becoming the economy. And the future network infrastructure, 5G, will become the infrastructure,” said Günther Oettinger, the EU Commissioner for digital economy and society, who was launching the EU’s ‘5G vision’ in Barcelona.

Subscribe to our newsletters