A group representing some of Europe’s largest industrial players slammed the pace of 5G deployments in the region, calling for improvements in spectrum allocation processes and better incentives for private investment.

In a research paper, the European Round Table for Industry (ERI) noted the continent suffered from a “clear lag” in 5G compared with other large industrial regions.

Criticisms included the fact more than half of European Union (EU) member states were yet to offer commercial 5G, and those which had were well behind countries like South Korea on deployments.

It estimated there were ten 5G base stations per million people in EU countries with active networks, versus 1,500 per million in South Korea. It also added there were “equally poor” rates of upgrading 4G infrastructure to 5G.

The group considers the technology as essential for digital transformation and industrial innovation, but said there was growing concern on Europe’s position “in spite of being home to two globally leading mobile infrastructure companies actively engaged in the global rollout of the technology”.

Chair of ERI’s Committee on Digital Transformation and CEO of Volvo Group Martin Lundstedt (pictured) added: “To close the gap we urgently need a European deal to roll out 5G; one which delivers a more harmonised approach to 5G spectrum, assignment and operation, and better regulatory incentives for private investment.”

“5G is at the heart of our digital future, and digital will empower energy transition, innovation and a whole new world of employment opportunities,” he continued, citing the technology as “vital” to the EU Green Deal environmental initiative.

“Everything is connected, that’s why this is such a fundamental part of the equation.”

The ERI claims to count among its members the CEOs and chairs from 55 of Europe’s largest companies in the industrial and technological sectors.