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EU network tech boss: Europe to take the lead on 5G (thanks, Huawei)

Chinese firm's investments triumph for the single market

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At the 5G@Europe Summit on Monday, Brussels networking czar Thibaut Kleiner said that Europe will "lead" the way with 5G, and that this will mean growth in the IT sector and the economy at large.

The Munich event was heavily sponsored by Huawei and while panel members included representatives from French telecom and networking company Alcatel-Lucent and NSN, panels were led by Huawei reps and only Huawei fielded individual speakers.

Kleiner, a deputy in the cabinet of Neelie Kroes, where he is in charge of internet policies "at large" and robotics, said it was up to the EU telecoms sector to take the lead with its 7 million ICT sector employees in Europe's single market.

To that end, the European Commission's "Advanced 5G Infrastructure public-private partnership programme (5GPPP)" would go a long way to ensuring that demand for our IT workers' services on the "connected continent" would increase – and that the demand would lead to overall economic growth. He said standardisation efforts were also key to the success of the venture.

According to the blurb for 5GPPP, "Now is the time to kick-start 5G investment and position European industrial players in order to seize the first-mover advantage."

One of these key industrial players, it would seem, is Chinese networking firm Huawei.

How and when

As the network tech boss pointed out, there there is a 10-year pattern in mobile network technology, with a new generation coming along about once a decade. He agreed with a Huawei keynote that first 5G rollout would take place in 2020. He added that 5G will increase peak data rates to 10Gb/s, provide five times better latency than 4G at 1ms, will be more secure and have lower power consumption and operating costs.

The run-up to the rollout will see an initial project in 2015 and widespread trials in 2017, he said. The network tech boss said the Commission expects to see 5G usage peak around 2040. Other predictions included 4G overtaking 3G around 2020 and peak 4G volume in 2030.

Proving himself an adept buzzword bingo player, Kleiner said 5G was about new services, the "Internet of Things", "software defined networking", open source and the cloud. He said he recognised the difficulty of looking to open source to drive innovation while guarding intellectual property.

For why?

It's not clear why the ultra-low-power devices hooked up to the "Internet of Things" would need 10Gb/s, but machine-to-machine is necessary to shore up the success of the standard. Indeed at the 100 years of wireless SIG meeting last week, Andy Sutton, EE's principal network architect, told the audience he expected that because of machine-to-machine rollout being much stronger on 2G than on 3G, he could see EE switching off 3G before 2G. Kleiner predicts 100 billion objects being connected through 5G.

To accelerate European adoption of 5G, the 5G PPP has been launched with a fund of €700m, which Kleiner expects to be more than matched by industry.

What remains to be seen is where Huawei fits in. The Chinese megacorp has only had a base in Europe since 2000 and there are strong reservations over the company's supposed links to the state, indeed some countries eye their kit very suspiciously.

The EU press office dismisses the concerns: "The Commission is organising a series of conferences around 5G. For instance, the future internet assembly in Athens will cover 5G. Commission representatives also participate in industry conferences on a regular basis. In the EU, anybody is free to organise a conference on 5G if they see fit. Huawei has announced significant investments in that area, including in Europe, and is contributing to some EU research projects."

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