GSMA warns Europe will fall behind in 5G race without policy changes

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Mobile industry body the GSMA has warned EU policymakers that without a more pro-investment regulatory environment, Europe risks falling behind the US and Asia in terms of 5G coverage and adoption.

A new report published by the organisation claims mobile technology delivered €757 billion to European GDP in 2021, while 108 operators in 34 countries have launched commercial 5G services, reaching 6% of the population.

Norway leads the way with 16%, ahead of Switzerland (14%), Finland (13%), the UK (11%) and Germany (10%).

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However, the GSMA has warned that Europe will continue to trail the rest of the world unless there are changes to policy. It predicts an average adoption rate of 44% by 2025, with the UK and Germany reaching 61% and 55%, but this will trail the 73% predicted in South Korea, and the 68% anticipated in the US and Japan.

Meanwhile a third of Europe won’t even be able to access 5G, compared to less than 2% in South Korea and the US.

“Europe is adopting 5G faster than ever before, but greater focus on creating the right market conditions for infrastructure investment is needed to keep pace with other world markets,” said Daniel Pataki, GSMA vice president for policy and regulation. “This should include the implementation of the principle of fair contribution to network costs.”

The telecoms industry has frequently expressed their frustration that big technology firms and service providers have benefited from network investments made by operators which are burdened with the obligation to ensure there is enough capacity to meet demand.

One study suggests that Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Meta (Facebook), Microsoft and Netflix account for half of global data traffic, and many of their services actively compete with those of the communications industry – impacting revenues – and are not subject to the same regulations.

Many leading European operators have called for big tech firms to make financial contributions for the construction and maintenance of mobile and broadband networks.

The EU, which sees connectivity as crucial to many of its economic and social ambitions, has indicated it agrees and believes a direct form of contribution would be the most palatable form of intervention. Unsurprisingly, the technology industry has pushed back, with Google arguing it already invests ‘billions’ in infrastructure.

Earlier this week the GSMA indicated it believed that it believed such a model should be applied worldwide.

Via Reuters

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.