The Single Market sits at the heart of the European Union. Within it, people, capital, goods and services are able to freely move around. Treating the EU as one territory in this way aims to simplify transactions across Europe along with stimulating competition trade and growth.
The global economy is becoming rapidly digitalised and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) is no longer just a specific sector, but the bedrock of modern innovative economic systems. In May 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker, then the head of the European Commission, announced the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy in recognition of this trend. The strategy aims to create a market where “individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and engage in online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence’”, and it is built on three pillars:
- Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services
- Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish
- Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.
When discussing digital strategy, we need to consider plans for 5G implementation and promotion. Regarded as a necessary tool to enable Europe’s access to 5G, the “5G Action Plan” was announced in 2016 by the Commission. This aims to facilitate coordinated 5G deployment across all EU member states, and at the same time tackle any discrepancies among state-level 5G rollout.
It considers that a lack of coordination between member states could lead to fragmentation in terms of spectrum availability or service continuity, and would delay the implementation of 5G. The plan also seeks to avoid discrepancies at the national level, especially between urban and rural regions. Even though the plan advocates for deployment in urban areas first, followed by along main transport corridors, and only then in rural areas, it has the ultimate goal of ensuring equal access and competitiveness.
To help achieve its vision, the European Commission launched the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) – a joint initiative between the Commission and the European ICT industry (ICT manufacturers, telecommunications operators, service providers, SMEs and research institutions). The 5G PPP entails a long-term commitment from both the private and the public actors to invest in achieving the planned objectives of the 5G Action Plan and contribute towards realising the DSM strategy.
The potential fears the public might have regarding 5G, such as health and security concerns, may become an obstacle for the implementation of such technology in the DSM and the upfollowing initiative, the Digital Decade / Compass. Tensions in the relations between the US and China have also caused the European Commission to call for greater diversification of suppliers. An increased presence of foreign suppliers in Europe could also lead to potential delays because of supply chain dependency.