What is really holding back “5G” in Europe?
Jun 09, 2017 by Kane Mumford

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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.