Ansip addresses conflicts in the ‘race’ to 5G
Tue 28 Feb 2017
The European Commission’s Vice President Andrus Ansip has emphasised in a speech that the EU’s feverish ambitions regarding the implementation of 5G must take second place to the need for fully global standards to be established first, commenting ‘There will not be a second chance to do this.’
Speaking at Mobile World Congress, Ansip – also the current European Commissioner for Digital Single Market – asserted the need ‘to avoid global fragmentation, or interoperability gaps where people’s mobile connections become patchy when they travel overseas.’ He also said that it is necessary to ‘avoid short-term decisions and early choices that could set a 5G standard in stone and make it hard to change later.’
Ansip warned about the potential damage to emerging 5G standards which could come to pass as a result of competing national and international pressures, urging a ‘common understanding’ between countries and regions.
He also observed that even if the process of global standardisation should delay the implementation of 5G networks, it will be worth the effort in terms of global market reach.
“5G is no longer being seen as a necessary cost to pay. It is already an intrinsic asset,” said Ansip, and continued “If you are a company, you know that your competitors are either investing in new technology or have it already. That is the natural competitive edge. You cannot stop progress. If you don’t take advantage, others will. That is why we have to work together – regionally and globally.”
The cautionary note of Ansip’s speech is somewhat at odds with the urgency he advocates for European development of 5G – an imperative that the EC has made very clear over the last two years, convinced that fifth generation connectivity networks will bring a 113 billion euro benefit to the European Union by 2025.
The intra-business fragmentation in Europe alone threatens to make Ansip’s ‘quick but thorough’ vision for 5G problematic, as private interests prepare to use governmental impetus as a bargaining chip. Besides land access and the maze of cross-country work permits and H&C compliance legislation to traverse, Europe’s telcos also see 5G as a potential lever to strong-arm a more favourable deal for themselves around net neutrality – a stark contrast to the EC’s commitment to connectivity as a basic facility like water or gas.
What may be most alarming to the Commission, and is an aspect Ansip addresses directly in his speech at MWC, is how far ahead Asian-backed private industry is in the process of trialling, elaborate experiments and – potentially – establishing functional unilateral standards; a process which threatens either to define western 5G standards from the less-regulated hotbeds of Asia, or to bring to pass standards incompatibility between regions in 5G networks. Or multiple versions of 5G implementation around the world.