The 2023 edition of The European 5G Conference took place on 13-14 March at the BluePoint, Brussels. In its 7th year, the conference has an established reputation as Brussels’ leading meeting place for discussion on 5G policy.
The rollout of 5G in Europe is gathering pace, with more than 100 5G networks now having launched across 34 markets. As we continue to edge forward towards the target of 5G deployment in all populated areas by 2030, and with ‘5G Advanced’ and the next chapter of 5G development on the horizon, this conference looked at how stakeholders can come together to tackle the challenges, embrace the opportunities, and ensure that 5G changes Europe for the better.
With a return to an in-person format, the event did, once again, provide the opportunity to hear from high-level policymakers and industry stakeholders on key themes such as investment, security, sustainability, emerging business models and connectivity. Looking back at the lessons learnt to date, and forward to the path towards 5G Advanced and 6G, the event provided a comprehensive insight into all the key policy aspects that are shaping the 5G ecosystem in Europe.
Where are we? Progress in 5G network rollout & expansion
Securing Europe’s 5G Networks and Architecture
Finding a fair and sustainable approach to finance 5G ecosystem
Harnessing 5G to help achieve Europe’s climate targets
Towards 5G Advanced and the evolution towards 6G
WRC-23 and 5G – what should be Europe’s aspirations and how can these be achieved?
Spectrum sharing and licencing in the 5G era - mid-band, mmWave and other key frequencies
All times listed are in local Brussels time (CET).
One of the key aims of the European Commission’s ‘Path to the Digital Decade’ targets was to deploy 5G in all populated areas by 2030. Member states are working hard to deliver on this target and continuing both allocation of key 5G spectrum bands and rollout of networks. However, progress in some areas remains slow, with the situation not being helped by wider societal challenges such as rising energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis affecting sales of smartphones. June this year will see the release of the first annual ‘State of the Digital Decade’ report, which will provide an opportunity to look at the progress being made and the extent to which member states are on track. This session will take stock of the current situation around Europe and at the progress that has been made. It will look at the challenges and obstacles that remain, and at how policymakers and industry representatives need to come together to ensure that these are overcome.
• What is the latest progress with regards to the allocation of spectrum in the 5G pioneer bands across the EU and the rollout of networks in these bands?
• To what extent can it be said that member states are on track to hit the targets, and what findings and recommendations can be expected from the forthcoming ‘State of the Digital Decade’ report?
• To what extent should the Commission be looking to take action against member states deemed to be behind schedule when it comes to the targets that are being set?
• To what extent are issues of excessive red tape and bureaucracy still causing a challenge and what impact can the revision to the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive (BCRD) and the Gigabit Infrastructure Act (GIA) have on addressing this?
• What is the state of play with regards to the development of cross-border corridors and the technologies that are required in order to enable 5G based services to cross from one country to another?
• What should be considered as ‘5G’ within the context of the deployment targets, and how can it be ensured that the deployment that is being reported meets the key standards that should be expected?
• What work is being done to study 5G quality of service or quality of experience in networks that are being rolled out, and to what extent is there a need to continue to track these metrics into the future?
• To what extent is the impact of rising energy costs providing an obstacle for 5G deployments or leading to MNOs altering plans for network rollout (for example when considering the high energy costs relating to massive MIMO antennas required for 3.5GHz networks)?
• Where does Europe sit on the global level when it comes to 5G deployment, and how can EU and national policymakers work together to remove barriers to deployment and ensure that we maintain pace with other regions such as the US and Asia?
Through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), Connecting Europe Facility Digital programme (CEF Digital) and other investment mechanisms, Europe is making an unprecedented level of public financing available in order to help drive forward the development of network infrastructures and boost 5G network rollout. Despite this, Europe still faces an investment gap in both private and public funding when compared to other regions. And with construction and energy costs related to the deployment of networks spiralling, telecom operators across Europe are stating that there is an urgent need for additional funding to deliver and maintain a long-term sustainable 5G ecosystem. They argue that part of this financial burden should be met by BigTech firms, who contribute a large proportion of the internet traffic that is seen. With a European Commission consultation around this issue scheduled for early 2023, this session will examine the arguments for and against this ‘fair contribution’ debate, and also focus on funding elements more broadly to explore the work that is being done to deliver the necessary public and private funding for 5G, and ultimately the best and fairest way forward to fund 5G and Europe’s digital future.
Europe is continuing to lead the way when it comes to delivering a framework that secures 5G networks and architecture. Work continues on the implementation of the recommendations made by the EU Toolbox on 5G Cybersecurity, and alongside this, Member States, with the support of the European Commission and ENISA, earlier this year published a report providing an in-depth analysis of the security implications of Open RAN. In addition, the details of a new 5G cyber certification scheme are expected to be finalised by ENISA this year. This session will explore the collaborative efforts that are continuing across Europe to bolster cybersecurity and to counter the vastly expanded threat landscape resulting from the roll out of 5G. It will look at how specific 5G related security initiatives fit within the context of Europe’s broader cyber security framework, and at the work that is being done alongside international partners to secure the global supply chain.
At the recent COP27 Summit, Frans Timmermans announced that Europe is raising its 2030 target of reducing gas emissions from 55% to 57%. With a recent study claiming that at least 40 percent of the bloc’s carbon reduction solutions will rely on fixed-line and mobile connectivity, 5G is set to play a crucial role in hitting these targets. From smart cities and optimized buildings to streamlined transport networks, real-time monitoring and energy management systems to increased efficiency of inventory stocks and manufacturing – if harnessed in the right way then 5G offers the potential to enable organizations and communities everywhere to reduce our carbon footprint and move towards a more sustainable economy. At the same time however, rollout of 5G networks will also require millions of new cell antennas and billions of new devices, which initially has the potential to actually increase energy consumption and contribute to the climate change problem. This session will explore the impact of 5G on climate change from both angles. It will look at the work that is being done to mitigate the impact of 5G rollout on the environment; and crucially, explore the potential that 5G and the new use cases that it will enable can help play a role in helping Europe in meeting ambitious national and EU-wide 2030 goals for decarbonization.
5G Advanced is seen as the next major chapter of 5G development and is expected to deliver a whole new wave of new solutions and technology components. Amongst other things, it is expected to significantly improve the ways in which 5G can support AI and machine learning, which in turn has the potential to lead to more intelligent network management and improved performance of complicated, multi-antenna systems. This session will look at the differences that the emergence of 5G Advanced and AI-powered networks could make, the new features and enhancements that could emerge and the likely timeframe for this both in Europe and elsewhere.
From the identification of early visions and technical goals through to eventual commercial deployment, the development of any new generation in wireless technology is broadly thought to have a 10 year cycle process. The path towards 5G in Europe can be said to have begun in 2012 with the launch of Project METIS – a multi stakeholder initiative, formed with the objective of laying the foundation of 5G. Now, just over a decade on and with 5G an established commercial reality, this interactive session will offer the opportunity to look back on the different phases of the 5G ‘cycle’, to discuss the successes and the failures, and as we move forward, look at the lessons that can be learnt.
Telecom companies have invested heavily to roll out 5G services in countries across Europe, and there is now increasing pressure on them to explore new service offerings and business models in order to start seeing a return on these investments. At the same time, 5G is seeing the emergence of innovative new market entrants and shifting dynamics in the relationships between key industry players. Against this backdrop, this session will examine how traditional telco business models and the overall connectivity landscape is evolving in a 5G world. It will examine the changes that 5G is bringing to both the telecom ecosystem, and also to the way in which connectivity providers are interacting with both their customers and other technology providers. It will look at the opportunities that 5G offers for telecom and technology companies, and the best and fairest way forward in order to ensure the emergence of a long-term sustainable ecosystem that delivers economic value for them all.