Neelie Kroes has called for further investment into 5G technologies by Europe, even though 4G networks have barely taken off in the region.
Speaking at today’s Mobile360 event in Brussels, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda said Europe had missed the boat with 4G and it was time to focus efforts on the future.
“Even as we roll out the latest networks, I know we also need to look ahead to invest in researching the next generation of networks – I am talking about 5G,” she said. “OK, we missed 4G, we were the leader in 3G, now let’s take over the 5G.”
“It is the technology to support all the demands of smart cities, all the intelligent objects and devices now emerging from your creative minds, offering faster access and more effective services.”
Neelie Kroes first made the call for 5G investment at Mobile World Congress in February 2013 and said she was pleased with the reaction.
“I am delighted with the rapid and positive response from industry and we are now ready to agree a public/private partnership for strategic research for 5G,” Kroes said. “It is worth hundreds of millions in Euros.”
Europe's 4G lag
However, a report released today by event hosts GSMA showed Europe was vastly lagging behind with 4G.
At the end of 2012, less than 1% of total connections in Europe were 4G, according to the Mobile Economy Europe 2013 report, compared to 11% in the US and 28% in South Korea.
Even with the expected roll-outs this year, the GSMA still predicted penetration to only reach 2% by the end of 2013, compared to 20% in the US.
Anne Bouverot, director general of GSMA, was disappointed with Kroes’ comments and said it was still all to fight for when it came to 4G deployments.
Bouverot told Computer Weekly: “Of course we should be thinking about the future but the part of Kroes’ comment that we have lost 4G so let’s think about 5G? Well, I don’t think we should give up on 4G yet.
“This is really the beginning of the deployment of 4G and we shouldn’t just say – because we have started slowly and maybe we didn’t have the right investment – let’s completely forget it and think to 5G, which won’t come for another 10 years from now. We are not ready to say we won’t do anything until 10 years pass.
“So yes, of course it is a good idea to put the best brains and think about 5G, but not to the detriment of looking at all we can do now. Now we must encourage the development of 4G.”
EE, Vodafone and O2 now offer 4G services in the UK, although to limited locations. Three has promised it will launch its own network by the end of 2013.