Time for Europe to show it is serious about 5G

The future of 5G in Europe hangs in the balance as technical discussions on two of the three pioneer spectrum bands are taking place this July during the plenary meeting of the Electronic Communication Committee.

The current proposal of the technical conditions for the 26 GHz band would significantly undermine the industry’s ability to provide 5G in Europe – de facto making two thirds of the band unusable.

In millimetre wave bands like the 26 GHz, wide blocks of 1 GHz per operator are essential to pioneer 5G mobile services. Unfortunately, the conditions set up in the proposal would allow only 1 GHz to be used reducing by a factor of four the amount needed per operator.

In a show of unity between the industry and key ecosystem players, GSMA’s European members plus Huawei and Samsung Networks have sent this letter to European Ministers urging them to reconsider their approach. The letter also includes technical details outlining specifically what needs to change to create favourable 5G technical conditions for the industry to grow, develop and deliver connectivity and innovative services to Europeans.

Open letter from the mobile industry on the technical conditions of the 26 GHz band in Europe

Dear Minister,

Mobile communications plays a pivotal role in Europe’s economy and society as the key enabler for a wide range of sectors and services that European citizens depend on. The arrival of 5G offers an opportunity to build on this success with the potential to power a wide variety of new services and applications. The fulfilment of this vision is entirely dependent on access to radio frequencies within the different bands that make mobile communications possible. We are writing to you today to express our concerns about one of the EU pioneer bands for 5G.

The 26 GHz band is one of the pioneer bands for 5G in Europe and, along with other higher frequencies, will be essential to provide ultra-high capacity for innovative new 5G services. The use of these millimetre wave frequencies will be a key part of future 5G services in Europe and globally. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the harmonised technical conditions for the 26 GHz band in Europe allow the ecosystem to develop and flourish, and align with other parts of the world to allow Europe to benefit from global economies of scale.

The European Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) is currently deliberating on their Decision for use of the 26 GHz band for 5G. The most recent draft of this ECC Decision is proposing conditions that, if accepted, will severely constrain use of the band for 5G in Europe. These include restrictive emissions limits for mobile communications equipment, and other conditions that would constrain how 5G could be deployed in the 26 GHz band by licensees. Such rules would prevent mobile operators from building the best possible 5G networks, and would de-incentivise the industry from building the types of dense networks that would enable the gigabit society. Further information about these technical conditions can be found in Annex 1.

In order to make 5G a success and enable the sector to develop into a healthy industry, the conditions of use of the pioneer 26 GHz band should be as least restrictive as possible, and flexible enough to create a ripe environment for growth and development. This is a principle that Europe has applied in the past for many other frequency bands for mobile communications. Such an environment would incentivise network roll-out, and provision of extremely high capacity, high data rates and high quality of services for consumers.

Moreover, such an investment friendly approach would allow Europe to compete globally with other countries that are giving themselves the flexibility and conditions needed to make their industries leaders in 5G. The US has taken a pragmatic approach to emissions limits for the 28 GHz band, and Korea and Japan likewise, and other countries that are supporting the 26 GHz band, including in the Middle East and China and other countries in APAC, are also favouring less restrictive conditions. Should Europe choose a more restrictive approach, as currently proposed, it will be placing itself at a significant disadvantage in the global 5G race and hamper its ability to compete effectively with other countries and regions.

We therefore urge you and your representatives at ECC to avoid over-restrictive technical conditions and support a more pragmatic and investment friendly approach to the 26 GHz band in Europe that aligns with other regions and avoids Europe falling behind. There is a unique opportunity at the moment to give Europe the tools needed to be a global leader in the development of 5G, in order to transform our economy and society and take advantage of the limitless possibilities it can offer.

List of Signatories:

Alex Jin Sung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom

Tom Poelhekken, Chief Technology Officer, KPN

Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, Chief Technology and Global Innovation Officer, Orange

Gabriela Styf Sjöman, Acting COO and VP Head of Group Networks, Telia Company

Gediz Sezgin, Network Technologies Executive Vice President, Turkcell

Johan Wibergh, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Group

Erik Ekudden, Senior VP & Chief Technology Officer, Ericsson

Yang Chaobin, President of 5G Product Line, Huawei

Marcus Weldon, Corporate CTO and President, Nokia Bell Labs

Kyungwhoon Cheun, EVP & Head of R&D, Samsung Networks

Susan Buttsworth, CEO, 3 International Opportunities Development Hutchison Whampoa (Europe) Limited

Howard Watson, CEO BT Technology, Service & Operations, BT Group / EE Limited

Enrique Blanco Nadales, Global Chief Technology and Information Officer, Telefonica

Saverio Orlando, Head of Technology Unit, TIM