A group of European operators have made a pledge to move quickly to launch 5G services, while at the same time calling for a change to net neutrality guidelines, Financial Times reported.
The move comes as the European Commission is set to discuss its “5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe” today.
BT, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia and Vodafone Group are among the companies which have said they will launch 5G networks in at least one city in every European country by 2020. This is broadly in line with the launch plans of operators in Asia and the US.
But this comes with a caveat. “The telecom industry warns that the current net neutrality guidelines create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment,” the group cautioned, adding that “investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it”.
The European authorities have put a lot of weight behind 5G development plans. Not only is there a desire not to lag Asia and the US, but there is also an appetite to capitalise on other growth opportunities enabled by the technology, such as self-driving cars and advanced healthcare applications.
Net neutrality, on the other hand, is a complex issue, with a number of differing viewpoints depending on the holder’s position in the value chain. Operators are looking for a way to protect their investments in 5G, having seen a shift in value with 3G and 4G from connectivity to the services provided over-the-top – and often taken by infrastructure-light new-entrants.
One of the consistent calls is for communications apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype to be subject to the same rules as telco-provided services.
While conflating the two is not particularly surprising, the operators are nonetheless taking a bullish stance with the watchdogs.
European Commission Manifesto
A statement from the European Commission this morning said its 5G Manifesto “outlines the main opportunities and challenges linked to the deployment of 5G infrastructure in Europe. In particular, it provides recommendations for a common vision and a calendar for deployment in Europe, investments, standards and the synchronised introduction of services. It underlines the need for the coordination of radio frequencies and improved regulatory conditions to support innovation.”
Ahead of the meeting, Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said: “I very much welcome the 5G Manifesto and discussions today with the high-level industry group. These will help us focus on the key levers to ensure European digital leadership in 5G. I will come forward with a 5G Action Plan in the autumn.”