5G in Europe: A Mixed Picture of Progress and Challenges
5G is the next generation of mobile technology that promises to deliver faster speeds, lower latency, higher capacity, and more reliable connectivity. 5G has the potential to enable new applications and services across various sectors, such as healthcare, education, manufacturing, transportation, and entertainment. However, the deployment and adoption of 5G in Europe face several challenges and barriers, such as spectrum availability, network security, infrastructure costs, and consumer demand.
In this article, we will review some of the latest developments and trends in 5G in Europe, based on the web search results from Bing. We will also compare how European countries and players perform versus their international peers in terms of 5G performance and availability. Finally, we will look at some of the factors that influence 5G adoption in Europe, such as spectrum assignments, private 5G networks, and network virtualization.
How Does Europe Compare to Other Regions in 5G Performance and Availability?
According to Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index, which ranks mobile and fixed broadband speeds worldwide, Europe has a mixed picture of 5G performance and availability. As of June 2023, the average 5G download speed in Europe was 183.67 Mbps, which is lower than the global average of 201.12 Mbps. The average 5G upload speed in Europe was 35.51 Mbps, which is also lower than the global average of 38.65 Mbps.
However, there are significant variations among European countries in terms of 5G speeds and coverage. For example, Switzerland ranked first in the world for both 5G download speed (421.66 Mbps) and upload speed (72.77 Mbps), while Greece ranked last in Europe for both 5G download speed (66.25 Mbps) and upload speed (13.42 Mbps). Similarly, Norway ranked first in Europe for 5G availability (the percentage of time users can access a 5G network), with a score of 76.6%, while France ranked last in Europe for 5G availability, with a score of 9.4%.
In comparison to other regions, such as Asia-Pacific and North America, Europe lags behind in terms of 5G performance and availability. For example, South Korea ranked second in the world for both 5G download speed (413.28 Mbps) and upload speed (68.09 Mbps), while Canada ranked third in the world for both 5G download speed (295.51 Mbps) and upload speed (51.31 Mbps). Moreover, South Korea ranked second in the world for 5G availability (77%), while Canada ranked fourth in the world for 5G availability (59.9%).
One of the reasons for the gap between Europe and other regions is the lack of harmonized spectrum allocation and availability for 5G in Europe. Spectrum is the radio frequency band that enables wireless communication between devices and networks. Spectrum is a scarce and valuable resource that needs to be allocated efficiently and fairly among different users and services. However, spectrum allocation and availability for 5G vary widely across European countries, depending on their national regulatory frameworks and market conditions.
What Are the Latest Developments and Trends in Spectrum Allocation for 5G in Europe?
According to the European Commission’s latest report on spectrum assignments, as of June 2023, only 19 out of the 27 EU member states had completed at least one auction or assignment procedure for spectrum suitable for 5G deployment. The report also shows that only four EU member states had assigned spectrum in all three key frequency bands for 5G: low band (700 MHz), mid band (3.4-3.8 GHz), and high band (26 GHz).
The low band provides wide coverage and good indoor penetration for basic services, such as voice calls and internet browsing. The mid band provides a balance between coverage and capacity for enhanced mobile broadband services, such as video streaming and gaming. The high band provides very high capacity and low latency for ultra-reliable and low-latency communication services, such as autonomous driving and remote surgery.
The report also reveals that some EU member states have not yet assigned any spectrum suitable for 5G deployment, such as Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
The delay or uncertainty in spectrum allocation for 5G in some European countries has several implications for the deployment and adoption of 5G in Europe. First, it hinders the ability of mobile operators to plan and invest in their network infrastructure and equipment. Second, it reduces the competitiveness of European operators versus their international peers who have access to more spectrum resources. Third, it limits the choice and quality of service for consumers and businesses who want to benefit from 5G applications and services.
One of the reasons for the delay or uncertainty in spectrum allocation for 5G in some European countries is the lack of coordination and harmonization at the EU level. Although the EU has set common objectives and targets for 5G spectrum allocation and availability, such as the 5G Action Plan and the Electronic Communications Code, the actual implementation and enforcement of these policies depend on the national authorities and regulators of each member state. Therefore, there are different approaches and timelines for spectrum allocation and availability for 5G across Europe, depending on the national priorities and interests of each country.
Another reason for the delay or uncertainty in spectrum allocation for 5G in some European countries is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted the planned auctions or assignments of spectrum for 5G in some countries. For example, France postponed its 5G auction from April to September 2022 due to the health crisis, while Spain delayed its 5G auction from Q1 to Q4 2022 due to the economic crisis. Moreover, some countries have faced legal or political challenges or controversies over their 5G spectrum allocation processes, such as Belgium, Ireland, Poland, and Sweden.
What Are the Latest Developments and Trends in Private 5G Networks in Europe?
Private 5G networks are wireless networks that are owned and operated by a specific entity, such as an enterprise, an industry, or a public institution, for a specific purpose, such as enhancing productivity, efficiency, or security. Private 5G networks can be deployed in various scenarios and sectors, such as manufacturing, mining, energy, healthcare, education, transportation, and public safety.
Private 5G networks offer several advantages over public 5G networks or other wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi or LTE. For example, private 5G networks can provide more control and customization over network performance and quality of service, such as speed, latency, reliability, and security. Private 5G networks can also enable more flexibility and scalability over network deployment and management, such as adding or removing devices or applications. Private 5G networks can also leverage more spectrum resources and technologies, such as licensed, unlicensed, or shared spectrum bands or network slicing.
According to a recent report by ABI Research, the global market for private cellular networks is expected to grow from $3.8 billion in 2022 to $16.3 billion in 2031, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%. The report also predicts that Europe will account for the largest share of the global market for private cellular networks by 2031, with a revenue of $6.7 billion. The report attributes this growth to several factors, such as the strong industrial base and innovation ecosystem in Europe, the supportive regulatory framework and policy initiatives for private cellular networks in Europe, and the high demand and adoption of private cellular networks across various sectors and use cases in Europe.
Some of the examples of private 5G network deployments in Europe are:
In Germany, Siemens partnered with Deutsche Telekom to launch a private 5G network at its automotive factory in Nuremberg. The network uses spectrum from the local industrial band (3.7-3.8 GHz) that was allocated by the German regulator BNetzA. The network enables Siemens to improve its production processes and quality control by using real-time data analytics and automation. In France, EDF partnered with Nokia to launch a private 5G network at its nuclear power plant in Blayais. The network uses spectrum from the national band (2.6 GHz) that was allocated by the French regulator ARCEP. The network enables EDF to enhance its operational efficiency and safety by using remote monitoring and maintenance. In Finland, Nokia partnered with Ukkoverkot to launch a private 5G network at its headquarters in Espoo. The network uses spectrum from the national band (3.5 GHz) that was allocated by the Finnish regulator Traficom. The network enables Nokia to showcase its own 5G products and solutions to its customers and partners. In Sweden, Volvo partnered with Telia to launch a private 5G network at its truck factory in Gothenburg. The network uses spectrum from the national band (3.7 GHz) that was allocated by the Swedish regulator PTS. The network enables Volvo to improve its manufacturing quality and efficiency by using connected sensors and robots.
What Are the Latest Developments and Trends in Network Virtualization for 5G in Europe?
Network virtualization is a technology that enables mobile operators to create multiple logical or virtual networks on top of a single physical infrastructure. Network virtualization can be achieved through various techniques or architectures, such as software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV), cloud-native computing (CNC), or open radio access network (O-RAN).
Network virtualization for 5G is gaining momentum in Europe due to its potential to enhance network flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency. By virtualizing network functions and services, operators can deploy and manage multiple 5G networks tailored to specific use cases and customer needs. For example, operators can create dedicated virtual networks for industrial automation, smart cities, healthcare, and more.
Furthermore, network virtualization allows operators to optimize network resources dynamically, allocate bandwidth as needed, and reduce operational costs. This approach supports the delivery of low-latency and high-reliability services required for critical applications like autonomous vehicles and remote surgery.
Europe’s journey towards embracing 5G technology presents a diverse landscape, with countries facing varying challenges and progress. While some nations lead the pack with impressive 5G speeds and availability, others are grappling with spectrum allocation and regulatory issues. Additionally, the rise of private 5G networks and network virtualization further shapes the future of 5G deployment in Europe.
As the region navigates these opportunities and challenges, policymakers, regulators, and industry stakeholders must work collaboratively to foster a conducive environment for 5G growth. By addressing spectrum allocation concerns, supporting private network initiatives, and embracing network virtualization technologies, Europe can unlock the full potential of 5G and usher in a new era of connectivity and innovation across diverse sectors.