Explaining that European 5G Manifesto

A manifesto presented to the EC by an alliance of European telcos and industry players is long on demands and short on plans.

A group of telcos and some industry “verticals” have submitted a 5G Manifesto to the EC’s consulation on its 5G action plan. You can read the whole thing here (PDF download), but here are the specifics.

Here’s what the consortium said they would commit to:

Deeper cooperation between telco players and industry verticals.

A phase of trials before 2018 that will be independent of standardisation and demonstrate specific use cases.

Around 2018, as 5G 3GPP R14 is close to being finalised and frequency is being identified, agree on trial specifications for a series of pan-European trials.

Launch 5G in at least one City in the 28 European Member States by 2020. (For verticals, the automotive, smart grid, transportation & mobility, manufacturing and media & entertainment sectors will be front-runner 5G users.)

Here’s what they want:

FUNDING:
A fund of between half a billion to a billion Euros for large scale trials, to incentivise vertical industries.

A venture fund of over a billion Euros to act as a catalyst for “digital innovation”, underpinned by 5G, at a European scale.

REGULATION
National regulators should have as their primary objective incentivising investment in connectivity, rather than consumer benefits.

Fewer and simpler rules on access to key infrastructure, and a withdrawal of ex-ante regulation where it is needed to encourage innovation.

More encouragement for long term commercial agreements vs regulation.

Net Neutrality rules to allow for innovative specialised services required by industrial applications, and also to allow for Network Slicing, which attaches different QoS parameters to specific services as “slices” end to end in the network.

SPECTRUM:
Harmonised licensing at 700MHz, 3.4-3.8GHz and 24GHz and beyond by 2020.

TRIALS:
EU to provide some co-ordination of trials, especially the later trials, to provide greater momentum.

STANDARDS:
EU policy makers to co-fund standards activities, incentivise private sector investment in R&D contributions to standards; harmonise standardsby encouraging international co-ordination

Operators that endorsed the manifesto were: BT, DT, Hutschison, Inmarsat, Orange, Proximus, KPN,Tele2, TIM, TElefonica, Telekom Austria, Telenor, Telia and Vodafone.

WHO IS THE MANIFESTO FROM?

Vendors endorsing the manifesto: Nokia, Ericsson

“Vertical” industry companies willing to engage int he next phase were: Ahlers, Airbus Defence & Space, Royal Philips, Siemens AG, Thales Alenia Space.

The list remains open for others to endorse the manifesto.

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Well, the manifesto forms part of a consultation process the EC is carrying out until 11 July,  to form its 5G Action Plan. The Action Plan is due for publication in September, and will be part of  package that will include

WHAT DOES THE MANIFESTO MEAN?

The manifesto was long on what the telco players want from the EU, and short on what they offer in return. That is perhaps understandable in a consultation on an action plan, but it’s hard to resist the temptation that the telco lobbyists have seen in this 5G consultation the opportunity to revisit some old ground.

Essentially the manifesto reflects some long-held and ongoing concerns of mobile operators. These include a concern that net neutrality regulations, as currently agreed upon in the EU, threaten their ability to “monetise” their network investments, because they will not be allowed to hook up different classes of service to specific users. This is key because a large part of the aim of 5G is to be able to enabler businesses (verticals) to transform their own businesses by using 5G connectivity in some way or other, including the ability to have secured latency, throughput, coverage, etc on the network.

The operators also want greater access to infrastructure such as fibre, and to be allowed to make commercial arrangements on a long term basis on access. Again, this is an argument they have been making since long before 5G became a strategic priority.

Operators’ call for regulation to be focussed on fostering investment, rather than consumer benefits (ie lower prices) is also a banner that has been raised before. It’s somewhat surprising, therefore, that they didn’t also rope in their long-term opposition to the Competition Commission’s opposition to their desire for deeper consolidation within Europe’s 28 member states.

Overall, the implicit threat is that if the EC wants to put a plan together that will see Europe transform its industrial sector and productivity with a range of 5G services, then it will have to change the landscape for its mobile operators.

There is actually very little that is offered in terms of planning and proposals. There’s little or no detail on how the telcos themselves can work together to bring trials forward, to harmonise on technology R&D and choices, to deliver requirements to device makers and developers, to foster a culture of innovation around 5G. Perhaps we will see that at another time.

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