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Europe lagging behind South Korea, Japan, US in 5G rollout

UK and Germany among adoption leaders in the region

Europe is falling behind global leaders in 5G adoption as rising inflation and war in Ukraine affect infrastructure ambition, according to an industry survey.

A study by the GSMA, a lobby group for the mobile industry, predicts that 5G network coverage in Europe is set to rise to 70 percent in 2025, up from 47 percent in 2021. However, nearly a third of the population without 5G coverage compares unfavorably to South Korea and the US, where it is expected only 2 percent or less will be without 5G coverage by the same date.

The 2022 Mobile Economy Report Europe report shows that at the end of June 2022, consumer take-up of 5G in Europe – ie, using a device with a 5g chip in it – was growing. Norway leads in adoption, with 16 percent using 5G, but positive momentum is also evident in Switzerland (14 percent), Finland (13 percent), the UK (11 percent), and Germany (10 percent). The average across the continent is 6 percent of the mobile customer base.

The survey of 108 operators in 34 markets across Europe found that by 2025, 5G adoption across Europe will hit 44 percent, but in South Korea it is expected to hit 73 percent in the same time period, while Japan and the US are likely to achieve 68 percent adoption.

The GSMA estimated that mobile technologies and services contributed €757 billion (c $748 billion) to Europe's GDP in 2021.

Daniel Pataki, GSMA vice president for Policy & Regulation, said: "Europe is adopting 5G faster than ever before, but greater focus on creating the right market conditions for infrastructure investment is needed to keep pace with other world markets. This should include the implementation of the principle of fair contribution to network costs."

The report said operators were facing rising energy prices, in part caused by the conflict in Ukraine, with implications for powering new equipment. "Energy efficiency and the use of renewables have therefore risen up the agenda in attempts to run sustainable network operations," the report said.

Last month, the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association reiterated calls for Big Tech to cough up a percentage of net infrastructure costs. Bosses at 16 telcos moaned they are being asked to do all the heavy lifting and characterized the situation as unfair.

The GSMA noted that in 2021 the European Commission set out its economic plans for IT-boosted development in the Digital Decade framework. It promised tangible benefits for EU economies through the development of digital skills, digital transformation of business, sustainable digital infrastructures, and the digitalization of public services.

Accelerating plans for 5G in Europe were "vital for policymakers to create the right conditions for private infrastructure investment, network modernization and digital innovation," the GSMA argued. ®

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