PARTNER CONTENT: The technological advances being shaped by 5G across Europe are so profound, the era is being identified as Europe’s digital decade. There are multiple technology milestones being realised throughout Europe and these achievements are seen as pivotal moments where vision becomes a reality right before our eyes.

The EU’s digital decade programme aims to achieve technology goals in four key areas: skills; infrastructure; business; and government. Focusing on the infrastructure component, the goal is to provide gigabit connectivity for everyone in Europe and at least 5G coverage everywhere by 2030. But how can 5G help in achieving these goals and what progress has been made so far?

5G’s Role in Connectivity and Business Transformation

The crucial role of 5G lies in connectivity, especially in the post-pandemic era, labelling it a basic necessity. Due to its high speed and ultra-low latency, 5G is pivotal for achieving the EU’s digital decade goals. A GSMA report released in 2022 showed Europe’s telecom sector already contributes somewhere between 4% and 5%of GDP. Combined with the indirect effect that 5G will create in contributing to GDP by impacting various sectors like manufacturing, automotive and healthcare, it is going to be a really significant contribution.

It is true that 5G is not only a technological upgrade, but also a business and societal transformation. Research company IHS Markit predicts  5G could catalyse $13 trillion of global economic output by 2035, approximately 7.5% of global GDP. Furthermore, the global 5G value chain is expected to generate more than $3.5 trillion in economic output by 2025 and provide employment for more than 22 million individuals by 2035.

5G Rollout and Adoption

It is worth pointing out that while Europe has seen about 50% of global 5G launches, the adoption rate is only around 11% to 12% of total mobile connections, which is quite low compared with regions including Asia and the US. Even top-performing European countries in terms of 5G adoption, such as the UK, Germany, and Switzerland, only have adoption rates around 29% to 30%.

In China and Korea, up to 85% of customers are either using or intend to upgrade to 5G. By contrast, figures in the UK and Germany are approximately 64% and 42%, respectively. Europe, in general, lags in terms of customer willingness to upgrade to 5G.

The impact of lower adoption rates in Europe is a reduced competitive position globally. This reality, unfortunately, results in loss of economic growth, deterred investment, reduced innovation, stagnation and missed opportunities in a variety of sectors, as well a potential increase in unemployment.

There are several use cases that could potentially drive 5G demand, such as the metaverse where consumers can interact in a virtual reality, and live streaming with high bandwidth, which influencers can employ to sell products directly from physical marketplaces.

Consumer demand is driven by awareness and exposure to use cases. For example, 5G enables enhanced experiences in digital entertainment like 3D viewing without special glasses and real-time translation services during video calls, which could break down communication barriers.

While Europe is doing reasonably well with an average spectrum holding in the C-Band of around 400MHz, it was highlighted that every country would require an average of 2GHz of spectrum in the mid-band by 2030 to enable citywide 5G applications.

The fast-growing digital economy, underpinned by digital and intelligent technologies, has become a key driver of socioeconomic development. 5G, cloud computing and AI are seeing broader, more rapid deployment. And they are converging fast, driving the digital transformation of industries like energy, transportation and manufacturing.

Taking Huawei as an example, it has been playing an important role in partners’ digitalisation moves with uses including the world’s first smart 5G railway depot, the East-West Gate (EWG) intermodal terminal project, where instead of drivers operating each crane from a cabin high above the ground, the cranes are equipped with 20 high-resolution cameras whose images are fed to remote operators.

The cranes are also equipped with advanced sensors and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, allowing them to operate with a high degree of accuracy and speed. Large bandwidths are required to upload the images from the cranes and view them in real time, and low-latency is needed to accurately control the cranes. Customised private 5G networks offer high data security and enables the real-time remote control over the entire container terminal area.

Global Perspective and Competition

China is a significant player in the 5G space, contributing 5.5% to its GDP from mobile technologies and services. With more than 2.3 million 5G base stations and aggressive building plans, China is expected to be the first market to achieve 1 billion 5G connections by 2025.

Competition is essential for driving innovation and for customer choice, and we must have a coordinated approach. If you also look at the opportunity cost, it is quite critical. If we do not take a coordinated, deliberate approach with 5G, then we will be in danger of missing out on implementing different types of use cases.

Ronald van Loon is the founder and CEO of Intelligent World, a premier global tech event and educational marketplace featuring thought leaders, analysts and influencers. Additionally, he is an advisory board member and course adviser for Simplilearn, a leading professional certification training company. A multi-faceted influencer, Ronald frequently speaks on AI, 5G and Data Science. He is globally recognised and ranked by esteemed organisations like Onalytica, Refinitiv, GlobalData Research and Verdict Media, among others. His impressive rankings include being the number one influencer in AI, Big Data, and Analytics; number two in 5G, cloud and IoT; and number three in infrastructure. Beyond these accolades, Ronald assists businesses in crafting AI, data and analytics strategies to achieve and exceed their objectives. For a comprehensive view of his 175+ rankings, visit his LinkedIn profile.