Low 5G uptake in Europe will stagger AI development, Commission official warns


Persistent low uptake of 5G deployment in Europe mean other technologies dependent on fast internet such as artificial intelligence will face delays in uptake, according to a European Commission official.

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Persistent low uptake of 5G deployment in Europe mean other technologies dependent on fast internet such as artificial intelligence will face delays in uptake, according to a European Commission official.

Renate Nikolay, deputy director-general at the commission’s digital unit, told a 5G conference in Brussels today (30 January) that the EU is still behind in connectivity, despite efforts to speed up the roll-out of high-capacity networks, compared to other regions in the world.

“We see some progress, but we are not advancing at the right pace for the economy. There are success stories such as autonomous vehicles and health care applications, but if the take-up of 5G is low, AI will be taken hostage,” she said.

In its State of Digital Communications report published yesterday, telecom lobby group ETNO also warned that significant additional investment in roll-out is still needed before EU targets to reach full 5G and full gigabit coverage by the end of this decade are achieved.

In 2023, 5G in Europe reached 80% of the population, up from 73% the previous year, whereas the level is 98% in South Korea and the US and 94% in Japan. The report confirms that at the end of the decade, around 40 million people in the EU will still have no access to a fixed gigabit connection.

Digital Networks Act

In a bid to address 5G deployment as well as investment issues for the funding of the telecom infrastructure, the commission is due to publish its white paper on the Digital Networks Act (DNA) on February 21. Actual legislation could potentially follow when the new commission takes office after the June EU election.

Nikolay said that the white paper will also look at issues such as member state involvement in investment, as well as ways to increase public and private funding.

“We know that 200 billion euro is needed to upgrade networks. Investment levels and sources of revenues for telecom companies based on consumers are no longer efficient. So we will look at how to address the investment gap,” she added.

EU Industry commissioner Thierry Breton, who spear-headed the DNA, earlier said in a blogpost that telecom operators need the scale and agility to adapt to technological revolutions, but claimed that market fragmentation holds them back.

“Too many regulatory barriers to a true telecoms Single Market still exist, on spectrum acquisition, consolidation, legacy networks, security, and so on,” Breton wrote.

In anticipation of the DNA, tech lobby Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said in a statement today that Europe should look to future technological solutions to meet the 2030 connectivity targets.

“The EU should take a step back and rethink how it can achieve its Digital Decade targets in the most efficient and cost-effective way. The discussion to date has only focused on supporting one part of a much wider sector, and has ignored whether or not there is sufficient consumer demand or interest,” CCIA Senior Vice President Daniel Friedlaender said.



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2024-01-30 11:44:58

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