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EU web chief: Europe's slow on 4G, but 5G GLORY WILL BE OURS

Steelie Neelie pledges €50m to design ultra-fast networks

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MWC 2013 A top Euro politician has urged Europeans to get cracking on rolling out 5G networks after falling behind Asia and America in adopting 4G.

Neelie Kroes, who is vice-president of the European Commission and heads up the continent's digital strategy, has earmarked €50m (£43m) for funding research into faster-than-4G mobile broadband 5G.

In a speech at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, the commissioner said 5G was Europe's chance to lead network engineering again, adding:

For the next global standard, and the next generation of technology, will Europe lead the world, or merely follow? Will future ubiquitous ultra-high bandwidth communication infrastructure, also known as 5G, be pioneered by European industry, based on European research, creating European jobs? Or will global competitors get there first – and, by the way, many of them are already investing heavily.

As El Reg has pointed out before, definitions of 5G are nebulous and citizens may not even notice the difference.

But Kroes said the EU should bet big on network innovation, whatever form it takes and will pump millions into that area.

A sheaf of research institutions and private companies including Deutsche Telekom, BT, France Telecom and Telefonica are getting onboard to back the research, adding €75m to the EU's pot.

Lawmakers need to help too: differences in frequency spectrums, regulations and standards between European countries made the market fragmented and unnecessarily complicated, said Kroes.

Sketching out the dark world that would result from poor network infrastructure investment, Kroes referenced Apple Store iPhone queues which she said would be meaningless without the mobile broadband infrastructure needed to connect mobile devices to the net:

Just look at the long queues for the latest gadget. Look at the campaigns, profound and passionate, over the rules that should apply online. All these, people care deeply about – yet none of it matters without broadband connections: reliable, pervasive, fast.

The top line figure of €50m in funding for 5G research is new but the sum covers several grants that have already been made; some projects started at the end of last year.

The project getting the biggest EU handout is METIS - the Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for Twenty-twenty (2020) Information Society - which will receive €15m from the EU. It aims to design a concept network that can cope with mobile data in volumes 1,000 times greater than today's networks juggle. ®

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