European Spectrum Policy for the Digital Decade

The EU’s Digital Decade envisages full 5G or 5G equivalent coverage by 2030, which means ensuring digital inclusion for all European citizens and businesses no matter where they are. The important question is how do we deliver on that vision? Meeting the 2030 targets requires powerful cellular networks in rural and dense areas, yet analysts agree that there is a multi-billion Euro investment gap, which recovery funding alone will not address.

On 19 October, the GSMA convened key EU policy and industry decision-makers for its #GSMAConnected series event “European Spectrum Policy for the Digital Decade” to discuss how the mobile industry and spectrum policy can help deliver this ambitious digital vision. Kyriakos Baxevanidis, Head of the Radio Spectrum Policy Unit at DG Connect, provided opening remarks. Among the key topics discussed were 5G investment in the EU including the funding gap, spectrum availability and pricing, how to ensure digital inclusion for all European citizens and businesses and the proposal for a new Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP), which is planned for next year.

Key highlights from the event
  • The global pandemic placed a spotlight on connectivity and reminded us that advanced telecom networks are essential. The current energy crisis is a further reminder of how resilient infrastructure can make a difference in times of crisis and cannot be taken for granted.
  • Research by BCG for the GSMA estimates that a “full 5G vision” would require tripling yearly capex by 2025-2027, compared with existing levels. There is a need to consider if EU operators are in a position to invest at these levels and whether the right incentives for heavy long-term investment are in place.
  • A comparison with other developed regions (North America, developed Asia Pacific) shows a gap in all relevant metrics, not only from the perspective of operators (revenues per pop and profitability), but also from the perspective of end users (less capex per pop and less broadband consumption).
  • There are several interrelated but equally important aspects for the overall regulatory and policy landscape to enable delivery of the Digital Decade, but it is clear that spectrum policy will have a key role to play.
  • In view of the Commission’s planned legislative proposal on a new RSPP next year, issues such as roadmaps and planning, 6G, comprehensive monitoring, measures to assess effectiveness and best practice guidance need to be considered. In addition, spectrum availability, license duration, renewals and spectrum pricing will be key.
  • 5G investment in the EU by Javier Domínguez Lacasa, Head of Spectrum Policy and Regulatory Intelligence, Telefónica, and Chair of Frequencies Operator Expert Group, GSMA
  • Spectrum policy requirements by Ross Bateson, Special Advisor, Spectrum, GSMA
  • EU investment climate by Harald Gruber, Head of Digital Infrastructure Division, Projects Directorate, European Investment Bank
Available resources on the topic 
  • Vision 2030: Low-Band Spectrum for 5G: Low-band spectrum is the cornerstone of digital equality and a driver of broad and affordable connectivity. This analysis examines why governments and regulators must take a fresh look at the need for additional sub-1 GHz spectrum to deliver 5G.
  • Vision 2030: Insights for Mid-band Spectrum Needs: Mid-band spectrum is especially important as it offers a good mixture of coverage and capacity for 5G. This report presents the GSMA’s vision for how much mid-band spectrum mobile operators will require between 2025 and 2030 and provides some options for operators to meet this demand.
  • Vision 2030: mmWave Spectrum Needs: Access to mmWave frequencies will alllow the full potential of 5G to be realised: lightning-fast download speeds, huge capacity and the lowest latencies. This report looks at the estimated high-band spectrum needs in the 2025 -2030 time frame.
Why is Mid-Band Spectrum Crucial to Economic Growth in Europe?

#GSMAConnected Series: Small scale Big impact

This event is part of #GSMAConnected Series of Events (formerly Mobile Meetings Series). These are small-scale, invitation-only meetings that provide a setting to explore, from broader stakeholder’s perspective, EU policy issues that are central to the development of the mobile industry.

For more information please contact

Emma O’Toole

Director, Spectrum, GSMA

As Senior Manager for Spectrum, Emma leads on GSMA Europe’s efforts to represent the mobile industry on European spectrum policy, helping to develop and deliver an advocacy agenda that ensures mobile operators have timely and affordable access to appropriate spectrum.

An Economist by training, Emma has experience in academic research as well as a corporate and regulated company environment and is specialised in telecommunications regulation, market and policy analysis.

Emma has extensive experience working on a broad range of telecoms regulatory and public policy issues having previously worked as the in-house Regulatory Economist and EU-level representative for the former Irish incumbent, Eir.

Prior to joining GSMA in 2021, Emma also worked as a Senior Analyst with Cullen International, monitoring and reporting on EU and national telecoms and spectrum policy developments.

Emma holds a MSc in Economics and Policy in addition to a Bachelor of Commerce (International) from the National University of Ireland Galway.