MWC22: Europe’s industries will lag behind new tech order if 5G fragmentation continues, telcos warn
The last time the world’s mobile operators met to discuss the state of the industry in 2019 at Mobile World Congress, 5G services were fledgling, having only launched nationally in regions such as South Korea and China.
Three years and one pandemic on, and in the first meeting-of-minds between the top telco leaders in Monday morning’s keynote opener, support for Europe’s 5G infrastructure appears to be one of the main industry concerns.
For the GSMA, support for the costs needed to continue to build out 5G infrastructure is becoming increasingly pressing to fuel current services including ultra-broadband connectivity, processing and storage capacity, cloud computing, AR and Internet of Things – as well as future services such as quantum computing and standalone 5G.
The pandemic has acted “like a time machine” for mass digitisation observed Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, Chairman & CEO, Telefonica Chair of GSMA in his opener, and 5G connectivity is a key enabler:
“This connectivity has been fuelling a new era in technological revolution and its impact is expected to be four times as big as the industrial revolution. Everything is happening at amazing speed,” he added.
According to Alvarez-Pallete, to continue to deliver the super connectivity needed to power these Twenty-First Century services, a new framework was needed that called upon those that benefit from it to contribute to it.
Without naming names, the exec alluded to the streamers such as YouTube and Netflix, which many of Europe’s telecom carriers argue should bear the cost of developing future telecoms networks, because they use them so heavily.
Said Alverez-Pallete: “We need a hyper sector collaboration. We respect all players of the new economy, but we also deserve respect. We want to compete on equal terms: same service, same rules, same obligation. We are not asking for privileges just for justice.
“We are asking for a framework that protects all digital citizens. Data traffic is growing by up to 50% annually – this investment challenge is huge and deserves special attention. The burden of investment needed to manage this increasing volume of traffic should sit firmly with those who impose it,” he added.
Similarly, Nick Read, CEO, Vodafone called for a “new social contract” between industry and government to support the infrastructure that powers 5G services which he argues have been “the catalyst for innovation in every industrial sector.”
Read added: “Every country and region will try to maximise their chance to capture this opportunity for jobs and growth.
“Africa needs digital to accelerate development and growth and diversify its economies; Europe needs to be digital to remain globally competitive and maintain its leadership role such as automotive, aerospace, defence and agriculture.
“And the regions that have 5G first will be the regions that innovate fastest.”
Yet, at current rates Read claimed that it will take until at least the end of the decade for Europe to match the transformational full 5G experience that China will already have achieved this year.
“If we look at 5G population coverage around the world, South Korea has over 90%, China 60%, US 45% while Europe is under 10% and Africa is hardly even at the starting line,” said the exec.
According to Read, Europe will only catch up if the industry reverses “the ill health any hyper fragmentation of the sector.”
“We must have local scale to close the investment gap,” warned Read, “Otherwise we will be the passive bystander of the new tech order.”
To highlight the level of this 5G super connectivity already reached by the telcos globally Mats Granryd Director General, GSMA was also on hand to supply some stats.
To date, over 180 mobile operators have launched 5G services; By the end of 2022 1 billion 5G connections will have been made globally. 5G mobile traffic has grown 40% annually.
Therefore, he argued, “Government and policy makers must be encouraged to support 5G development call on governments to release spectrum at affordable prices.”
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