The EU signed an agreement with China this morning (28 September) for joint research to develop 5G mobile networks expected to be available for use in Europe by 2020.
EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger met with Chinese Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei to sign off on the agreement, which sets out goals for 5G standards, research and timeframes for introducing the new technology.
Oettinger said in a statement, “5G will be the backbone of our digital economies and societies worldwide. This is why we strongly support and seek a global consensus and cooperation on 5G. With today’s signature with China, the EU has now teamed up with the most important Asian partners in a global race to make 5G a reality by 2020.”
The EU signed similar agreements with South Korea and Japan over the last year.
5G wireless networks will speed up internet connections. The European Commission has called 5G central to new technologies and the emerging internet of things, which will increase the number of devices connected to the internet.
China and the EU also agreed to consult each other on new radio spectrum needs that will emerge with 5G deployment.
The Commission has billed the agreement as a boost for European companies looking to enter the Chinese market. Europe-based firms will gain access to China’s R&D programmes on 5G.
Chinese Ambassador to the EU Yang Yanyi called for the partnership on 5G in June when Chinese banks visited Brussels to discuss investment in the EU’s technology sector.
The Commission has so far pledged €700 million in investment funds to go towards 5G research in Europe.
In its plans for the digital single market that were announced this May, the Commission admitted that the introduction of 4G networks in Europe was blundered by the slow release of spectrum in the 800 MHz band.
In an effort not to make the same misstep with 5G, the Commission set up the 5G Infrastructure Association in 2013, which counts major European tech companies as members, including Orange, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica. Chinese firm Huawei is also a member. The public-private partnership was put together to match the Commission’s €700 million investment pledge for 5G research.
“5G networks will be Europe’s backbone in the Internet of Things era,” said Alessandro Gropelli, the spokesperson of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), an industry group. “ETNO members are committed to the 5-PPP, set up by the European Commission. This partnership is critical to ensure that the EU leads in the race to launch 5G networks.”
The EU’s goal of introducing 5G in 2020 lags behind other countries: Chinese telecoms companies have announced they’ll start early testing of 5G networks in China in 2018. A Verizon executive said earlier this month that the company will start 5G testing in the US next year.
Oettinger spent last week visiting Silicon Valley and Washington DC and traveled from the US to China for today’s announcement.
On 11 September, the Commission launched a new pair of public consultations on connectivity: one concerns broadband requirements and internet speed and another is on telecoms regulation. The consultations will continue until early December.
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.
- 2020: the European Commission expects 5G mobile networks to be available commercially