Europe has been urged to grasp the benefits of a move to 5G connectivity amid warnings it is losing ground to the US and China when it comes to the technology.
A new report published by Vodafone sets out how next-generation telecoms connectivity and the digitalisation of the industry can play a critical role in improving European competitiveness.
The report, Why Telecoms Matters argues that restoring Europe’s competitiveness should be a critical priority for the EU and Member State governments and demonstrates how digitalisation driven by new 5G technologies is a trillion-euro opportunity to boost innovation, increase industrial efficiency and improve public services.
The report explains that by connecting machines and applications with cloud-based intelligent services, the digitalisation of industry through advanced 5G connectivity represents the “fourth wave” of the industrial revolution, worth an estimated $2 trillion annually for the manufacturing sector alone.
However it also warns with Europe some way from achieving its 5G Digital Decade targets, an alarming “connectivity chasm” is opening between Europe and competing regions that could leave EU citizens, businesses, and society at risk of further economic decline.
This could be reversed if Europe prioritises the deployment of technologies including 5G Standalone (5GSA) that upgrades the telecoms network core as well as the radio antennas. An advanced 5GSA network delivering low latency applications and private ‘network slicing’ for industries of all sizes would revitalise Europe’s industrial base.
Why Telecoms Matters identifies that a lack of private investment available for 5GSA infrastructure leaves Europe facing a multi-billion Euro funding gap, widening the lead of the US and China in critical growth areas like Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security.
Joakim Reiter, Vodafone’s chief external & corporate affairs officer, said: “Europe is on the cusp of a major innovation and productivity boost through next generation 5GSA and the digitalisation it enables for businesses and the economy. Just as 4G unlocked the mobile internet for consumers, 5GSA can herald an industrial internet age and restore Europe to growth.
“Europe has a trillion-euro opportunity to digitalise its industry and compete globally, but this prize depends entirely on the speed of adoption. The five-year mandate of the next European Parliament and Commission must allow Europe to course correct, rebooting legacy telecoms regulation and creating a Single Market framework that attracts the investments needed to roll out 5GSA at pace.”
The report said for industry, while larger manufacturers are likely to continue building mobile private 5G networks and bespoke in-factory solutions, smaller businesses will need to rely on publicly available 5GSA to access similar opportunities for innovation.
It added digital connectivity offers solutions that can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% by 2030. These include smart connectivity applications, such as smart meters, smart grids and smart city platforms that can lower energy consumption and match demand with supply.
For farmers and rural citizens, Vodaphone said next-generation connectivity will have a crucial role to play in improving crop yields, supporting sustainability, and increasing opportunities for remote or flexible working in jobs traditionally limited to those living in cities.
For Europe’s healthcare systems the report said connectivity can deliver immediate returns for patients through telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, while enabling newer applications – like 5G AR training for new cardiologists – to be delivered at scale.
“For Europe to fully benefit from these new technologies, it also needs a workforce equipped with the right digital skills” added the report which warned greater effort needs to be focused on creating the capability to educate the next generation of telecoms innovators.