EU Industry Trade Group Warns 5G Delays Will Hurt Competition, Profits

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The chairman of a European industry trade group has warned the uneven rollout of 5G wireless technology could hurt companies.

In a tweet Friday (Sept. 18), the European Round Table for Industry (ERT), a Belgium-based advocacy group, wrote “Europe is lagging behind other world regions in the rollout of 5G, both the infrastructure and the capacity to offer commercial 5G services.”

The ERT is composed of 55 of the region’s largest industrial and technological companies who have combined annual revenues of more than 2 trillion euros ($2.4 trillion).

Carl-Henric Svanberg, ERT’s chairman, said failure to coordinate the implementation of 5G wireless across the region could hurt competition and lead to declining investment, the Financial Times reported.

“We have had too much of a fragmented approach in Europe,” Svanberg told the FT. “If we don’t have the right support for small and medium-sized companies, we will not have the support we need for our [larger] businesses either. That will drive our investment. We need to make sure we have the right environment, right infrastructure … 5G is key to that and it is one of the most key parts to creating a competitive society in the future.”

Svanberg, chairman of Volvo Cars, the Swedish-based car maker, told the newspaper it’s important for Europe’s business leaders and heads of state to coordinate the rollout of 5G.

His comment came as ERT released a study detailing the 5G gap between Europe and its global competitors, vital to the success of new technologies, the news outlet reported.

“5G will be integral to the future of Europe’s digital infrastructure and resilience,” the report stated. “Enterprises will depend on connectivity for their business survival.” But among European Union member states, more than half had not yet launched 5G commercial services, “whereas South Korea and the U.S. had begun more than a year ago,” the FT wrote.

So far, the European Union’s 27-nation bloc has deployed 10 5G base stations per million residents while South Korea had 1,500 per million, the report revealed. While the EU has upgraded 1 percent of its base stations to 5G, South Korea had completed 98 percent of its stations by the close of 2019.

Earlier this month, Madrid-based telecommunications company Telefonica the flipped the switch on its national 5G network. The company said the next generation in mobile technology will be available to 75 percent of Spain’s population this year, offering rapid download speeds and support for smart devices and factories.

“5G will bring huge benefits for Spain,” said Telefonica Chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete in a statement at the time. “This is a golden opportunity for our country to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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