EU wants to make free Wi-Fi available for everyone

5G Europe

The EU has laid out its ambitions for pushing forward with mobile connectivity, including the provision of free Wi-Fi across member nations, and goals for rolling out 5G, the next step in mobile broadband.

President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, detailed the plans in his state of the union address, which include a policy of providing free Wi-Fi hotspots in public places – in the "main centres of public life" such as parks, libraries and other public buildings – covering every village and city across the EU by the time 2020 rolls around.

And also by the end of the decade, Juncker asserted that every nation in the EU should have at least one city (most likely the capital, we guess) which offers 5G mobile coverage. And by 2025, the EU wants 5G mobile broadband to be available around all major roads and rail links.

And a goal for a minimum download speed of 100Mbps was also set for homes across Europe, again to be achieved by a target date of 2025.

These are fairly lofty targets, generally speaking, so how realistic they are is another matter – although at any rate, for the UK, they may not be relevant. That's because of Brexit, of course, although again it's not clear exactly how our exit from the EU is going to pan out, either.

Funding concerns

Funding is another issue, with the EU saying there will be a maximum pot of €120 million (around £100 million) to help councils with the provision of free Wi-Fi, with that money going towards installation costs, and councils themselves expected to fork out for subscription charges, and ongoing maintenance.

Mark Newman, chief analyst at telecoms consultancy ConnectivityX, told the BBC: "€120m doesn't sound like a huge amount of investment. In many towns and cities, people can already find free Wi-Fi on the High Street. I would question whether frugal councils will really see it as a priority to deliver free Wi-Fi in all their buildings and squares."

And as for 5G, as we discussed in a recent feature, technically speaking it is possible for it to arrive in 2020, but it's likely that will be in a very limited form (i.e. small areas of the capital). A meaningful rollout is likely to be pitched around 2023 to 2024, so the EU's target for expanded coverage hitting 2025 isn't out of line with this.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).