In 2013, the EU established the 5G-PPP in order to take advantage of the opportunities 5G offers. Additionally, in the same year, the EU offered €700 million for the Horizon 2020 programme to support the activity of implementing infrastructure and the rolling out of 5G technology. In 2016, the 5G Action Plan was adopted by the EU Commission to create a roadmap for launching the technology – 5G networks should be in place in EU member states by 2025 to ensure the advantages of what can be achieved through 5G. This follows the several test beds that had already been put in place across the EU before 2020 to test 5G technology and its applications.
In one of the first steps towards implementing 5G, existing mobile communication base stations are being augmented with software updates to use additional frequencies. In the second step, more base stations will be set up. These will be much closer together than in the past to ensure the level of coverage needed for 5G applications. These base stations will have arrays of antennas capable of 5G technologies – making beamforming, MiMo and mMTC all possible. In 2020, the first antennas were put in place in several member states. Overall, the telecommunication industry is expected to invest €3 billion in 5G technology over the coming years in Europe.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a clear demonstration of how important a digital economy can be and what networks must be capable of. This focus on the digital economy could be an enabler to speed up the rollout of 5G technology. However, some member states, and specific cities within them, have placed a temporary ban on its rollout – due to the uncertainties regarding health concerns that still remain. Scientific studies are currently being conducted to look into this further, and the EU is working closely with these scientific institutions to ensure the safety of its citizens and the environment.