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What is really holding back “5G” in Europe?

by Kane Mumford — last modified Jun 09, 2017 02:16 PM

Industry associations are putting slow progress down to legislators lack of vision – but a lack of innovative use of spectrum is the real problem.

The GSMA and ETNO have called on legislators yet again to ditch their “grim” approach to the 5G vision, as if having concerns about one-size fits all licence terms, pushy auction planning rules and more centralised control of spectrum policy were just a way to spoil everyone else’s fun.

Are longer licence terms really the missing ingredient that will prove the catalyst for the yet-to-materialise billions of investment that 5G will need? Studies do show that they can benefit consumers in a general way, but, as we have said before: two-plus-two doesn't equal 5G.

The industry appears to be conflating one issue – a lack of a cohesive vision on all sides as to what “5G” actually is – with another – the very real difficulties of reconciling member state subsidiarity with what the industry sees as good practice – in order to get its way. 

The European Parliament, in the type of debate that might be held in the municipal hall of a Potemkin Village, at the end of last month, has signalled it will back the industry in its aims. The European Council, which meets today in Luxembourg to discuss this, remains sceptical, as does BEREC.

But if anything approaching the “5G vision” is ever going to happen, it seems most likely it will be in the US, in the fertile grounds of the 3.5 GHz general access tier.

Free access to 3.4-3.6 GHz spectrum for anyone with an idea to test seems as good a way as any to inspiring the growth of an ecosystem. That is what the FCC’s Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) initiative offers, along with thousands of 7 x 10 MHz priority access licences.

Google wants something similar in Europe and it is encouraging that European regulators are taking note of the CBRS plans and PolicyTracker understands that the European Commission is understood to be very interested in what the US is doing. An innovative approach to spectrum use, although an abstract discussion in Europe at the moment, looks like the only way anything approaching “5G” in its true sense, not just enhanced mobile broadband, will ever come about.

 
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Kane Mumford

Kane Mumford
Kane Mumford writes on spectrum policy, business and the arts. Before joining the PolicyTracker team, Kane covered private equity at the industry trade magazine Real Deals. He has contributed articles on music, drama and comedy to the Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News and various other publications. After graduating with an NUJ-accredited honours degree in journalism from Edinburgh Napier University, Kane spent time working as a copy editor at Babel Media and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

 

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