Vodafone Group warned a lack of private investments in standalone (SA) 5G in Europe puts the region at risk of lagging the US and China in areas including AI and cybersecurity, a gap it claimed could lead to further economic decline. 

In a report titled Why Telecoms Matters, Vodafone found digitalisation driven by 5G technologies presents a trillion-euro opportunity to advance European innovation, the industrial sector and public services.

But the operator asserted the region is still “some way” from achieving its digital targets

As it stands, there is an “alarming ‘connectivity chasm” between Europe and competing markets, Vodafone wrote following research compiled from various government data and analysis by research companies.

“This could be reversed if Europe prioritises the deployment of technologies” including SA 5G, Vodafone noted, adding capabilities to deliver low-latency applications and network slicing for industries of all sizes could revitalise Europe’s industrial base. 

A lack of investment in SA 5G left Europe with a “multi-billion euro funding gap”, stunting efforts to catch up with developments in AI and cybersecurity. 

Vodafone found 73 per cent of large models are being built in US and 15 per cent in China, while no European country is currently hosting its own general purpose AI system. 

“European businesses also lag in their take up of cloud computing and 5G.”

Vodafone also emphasised China’s lead on deployments of edge and SA 5G for businesses and to increase staff productivity. 

Joakim Reiter, Vodafone chief external and corporate affairs officer, said “Europe has a trillion-euro opportunity to digitalise its industry and compete globally, but this prize depends entirely on the speed of adoption”. 

“The five-year mandate of the next European Parliament and Commission must allow Europe to course correct, rebooting legacy telecoms regulation and creating a single market framework that attracts the investments needed to roll out SA 5G at pace.”