The number of 5G trials by mobile operators in the 28 countries of the European Union (EU) reached 138 by mid-December 2018, according to the second 5G Observatory Quarterly Report published by the European Commission (EC) and compiled by research firm IDATE DigiWorld.
That means the number of 5G trials has increased from 114 compared to the first report published in October 2018. The report noted that mobile operators will soon be moving into the deployment phase, performing tests in “real” conditions when 5G smartphones start to emerge in the first half of 2019. Added to that, 33 trials have been reported in Russia, Turkey, San Marino, Switzerland, and Norway.
Spain, France and Germany (joint second), and Italy have been the most active in terms of trials in that order, accounting for 40 percent of the total. Russia and the U.K. also share the fourth position. The most important 5G pilot in the EU to date, according to the report, was carried out by Elisa in Finland in July 2018 because it used at least two cell sites and involved end users.
Other interesting nuggets from the second report include the fact that the most tested frequency band in Europe is by far the 3.6 GHz band, while the 26 GHz band is starting to gain traction. EU member states are also required to authorize the 700 MHz band by 2020, unless there are justified reasons for delaying it until mid-2022 at the latest.
As things stand, the 700 MHz band has been assigned in Germany, France, Finland, Italy, and Sweden; the 3.4-3.8 GHz band has been assigned for 5G in Finland, Italy, Latvia, Spain, and the U.K.; and the 26 GHz band has been assigned in Italy. In 11 member states, at least one spectrum auction is scheduled for 2019. The top 10 European countries where trials are being organized are listed as Spain, France, Germany, Italy, UK, Finland, Estonia, Netherlands, Portugal, and Romania. So far, the first trials in Europe are mostly testing throughput and latency, while media and entertainment is cited as the most important vertical market.
National 5G Roadmaps
Nine member states have now published precise national 5G roadmaps (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the U.K.) and 13 have published national 5G roadmaps or global strategy documents (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the U.K.). Eight member states are due to publish their 5G strategies in 2019: Cyprus (January), Denmark (February), Malta (March), Hungary (April), Portugal (July), Croatia (in the fourth quarter), Greece (December) and Lithuania (by end of 2019).
The report also noted that the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications has recently been reviewed, and the new European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) will come into force at the beginning of 2019. It is expected to provide a boost to 5G and high-speed broadband networks throughout the region.
The EC’s 5G Observatory was launched with the aim of ensuring that the EU remains in step with the rest of the world in terms of 5G developments. Its primary role is to help the EC to implement its 5G Action Plan, which is an initiative launched in September 2016 to coordinate the deployment of 5G technologies across all EU countries, support the development of common technical standards, and promote 5G innovation. The goal is to launch commercial 5G services in one major city in all EU member states by the end of 2020.