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European telcos publish their “5G Manifesto” and tell the EC what they expect in return for their support

EU Oettinger European Union Lieven Creemers

© EU / Lieven Creemers

  • “5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe”
  • Published today by 15 European operators and two vendors
  • Commitment for 5G “in at least one city in each of the 28 Member States by 2020”
  • Calls for current Net Neutrality guidelines to be revisited

The “5G Manifesto for timely deployment of 5G in Europe” was officially published at 2pm central European time today. The seven-page document is endorsed by thirteen European mobile operators, two satellite operators, two vendors (Nokia and Ericsson) and has tentative interest from five vertical market vendors. It is a response to the call back in March at MWC, from Digital Economy & Society Commissioner Günther Oettinger, for the industry to contribute to the shaping and consequent backing of his proposed 5G Action Plan.

The 5G Manifesto intends to foster effective interactions and collaboration with industry verticals, the formation of ecosystems as a result of large-scale demonstrators and the creation of an investment-centric policy framework. As we at TelecomTV have been saying for years now, “cooperation between the telco industry and verticals is paramount to achieve scale and return on investment for 5G.” The document allows reminds its political audience that “commercial 5G launches will require substantial investments in new infrastructure” and “a large amount of spectrum”.

So what do the 15 operators want from the European Commission (EC) and its Member States?

They want to invite to promote the benefits of 5G networks as ways to meet the digital connectivity needs of vertical industries and public institutions more cost-effectively than stand-alone or bespoke solutions. They want the EC to legally secure investment and economic cooperation between market-players involved in the development of 5G ecosystems. Policies and rules must be “future-oriented, pro-investment and pro-innovation”. It should also look to see whether regulatory harmonisation in some industry sectors, such as healthcare, energy or automated transport, is feasible and could help unlock pan-European services.

The manifesto authors note that “standards are crucial for 5G success”, as are Pan-European 5G trials. They propose a two-phase trial roadmap, encompassing different use-cases:

  • Before 2018 (between 3GPP release 14 and the 5G-centric release 15): Technology trials run by independent trial consortia in various countries, independent of the status of standardisation, to demonstrate and validate new 5G capabilities as well as foster an ecosystem around new 5G capabilities. Vertical industries will already be involved in this phase.
  • Around 2018 (as Release 15 is close to being finalised and as additional spectrum is identified in preparation for WRC 2019): European stakeholders agree on trial specifications (use-cases, scenarios, interfaces, agreement to transfer use-cases across trial networks) valid for pan-European trials, based as much as possible on standard-compliant systems. These trials aim to demonstrate wider interoperability and support for vertical use-cases in order to claim global public attention.

The telcos note that the following 5G use-cases and demonstrations are currently under consideration in Europe, and that industry players are committed to delivering a roadmap of trials and demonstrators by January 2017: 

  • The concept of 5G network virtualisation (slicing) to accommodate specific needs or business models
  • Connected automotive scenarios
  • Connected eHealth scenarios
  • Reliable, high capacity broadband connectivity in planes, railway and high-speed transportation
  • Public Safety use-cases for key events
  • Smart grids
  • Smart City use-cases
  • Media and entertainment use-cases 

In addition to funding research and innovation projects of the 5G PPP, the telcos want to EC to consider allocating funds to trials and large-scale demonstrators, as well as establishing a 5G Venture Fund. They want grants for large-scale demonstrators to be between €0.5bn and €1bn range and drawn from existing EU funding instruments. The Venture Fund should look at investments above €1bn, which would allow the EU to take equity stakes in European innovative start-ups aiming at developing 5G technologies and applications across verticals.

5G Action Plan to support a Digital Single Market

Top of the list is spectrum – lots of it and not too expensive please. They want harmonised licensing of 700MHz, 3.4-3.8GHz and higher-frequency bands (24GHz and beyond) by 2020. The telcos expect “substantial evolution” in spectrum policy harmonisation and bands availability well ahead of WRC 19.

The European 5G Action Plan must also reassure vertical industries that 5G deployment will be synchronised across Europe to achieve homogenous availability both in terms of location and time. The telcos believe the automotive, smart grid, transportation & mobility, manufacturing and media & entertainment sectors will be the front-runner 5G use cases, and they want initial 5G deployments as soon as 2020.

In order to help make this new ecosystem a reality, European operators say they will target launching 5G “in at least one city in each of the 28 European Member States by 2020”, creating a network of smart cities as innovation platforms for Europe and hubs of social and economic activities.

The EU regulatory framework should be reformed and there should be fewer and simpler rules focused on cases where regulated access to key infrastructure needs to be safeguarded. The telcos want a withdrawal of ex-ante regulation when appropriate, and where access regulation remains, long-term commercial agreements that enable competitive outcomes should be encouraged as an alternative to regulation. They want to see improvements to local regulation to make it easier to construct dense networks, such as the simplification of rules and the removal of deployment barriers, including rights-of-way for the installation of facilities, removal of taxation on sites and antennas; and harmonised EMF emissions limits.

The telcos want to see all players in the digital value chain operating on a level playing field: “converging digital services need converged regulation that is light-touch, future- proof and that facilitates a European single market for services” they say. They also, rather predictably, remind the EU and Member States of the need for an “Open Internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation”. Specifically, “the telecom industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment. Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.”

And there’s more: “We must highlight the danger of restrictive net neutrality rules, in the context of 5G technologies, business applications and beyond,” the telcos write in the Manifesto. “5G introduces the concept of Network Slicing to accommodate a wide-variety of industry verticals’ business models on a common platform, at scale and with services guarantees.” Current plans for implementing the rules “could make telcos risk-averse thus hampering the exploitation of 5G.”

The telcos conclude: “The success of 5G will depend on EU-wide scale support, with Member States acting coherently – whether in regard to licensing, providing appropriate state support, or directing early public sector participation.”

We are expecting a statement from Commissioner Oettinger later today, and we’re sure that other interested parties will also have their say. TelecomTV will update this story tomorrow.

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