EU still needs €300bn to realise full benefit of 5G

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Europe needs €300 billion in digital network investment over the next four years if it is to realise the full socio-economic benefits of full fibre and 5G, according to telecoms industry body ETNO.

A new report from the organization says 5G alone can generate an annual increase of €11 billion in GDP and 2.4 million new jobs by 2024 as part of the continent’s wider economic recovery.

Alongside job creation, advanced networks can power new ways of working, smart city applications, and reduce carbon emissions.  

Europe 5G

However, ETNO warns that as much as €150 billion is needed to achieve the optimum 5G scenario and the same amount is required to upgrade fixed infrastructure to gigabit speeds. Alongside this investment, it warns that more action will also have to be taken to stimulate demand and digital upskilling.

It says 83% of European SMBs are not using advanced cloud services and 60% of nine-year olds educated in EU schools are not digital equipped. As much as €40 billion would be needed to address these two issues alone.

ETNO says European telcos are working with industrial sectors to realise the benefits of next-generation connectivity but says it is time the EU’s digital strategies and political rhetoric finds its way into European and national policy.

The report calls for a favourable regulatory environment that promotes investment, the promotion of industry collaboration, actions to stimulate demand, and resources allocated for digital skills.

“This Report shows that Europe’s gigabit opportunity is extremely relevant to today’s top challenges, including recovery and the green transition,” said Lise Fuhr, ETNO Director General. “We call on European leaders to support the telecoms sector and help us deliver a stronger digital economy for all citizens.”

Europe trails the United States in Asia in terms of 5G rollout due to a number of reasons. Strong 4G networks that limit the immediate need for 5G infrastructure are one factor, as is strong competition, but a lack of certainty about suppliers has also contributed.

However, it is anticipated that the gap will be narrowed in 2021 as government focus on post-Covid economic recoveries and operators continue their rollouts.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.