EU Telcos Join Forces for 5G Networks, Weaker Net Neutrality

BT, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Hutchison, Nokia, Orange, Telefonica, Telenor and Vodafone are part of a group of 20 telcos that released a “5G Manifesto,” detailing what governments need to do to ensure 5G coverage across Europe. The companies say they will begin conducting large-scale tests of 5G by 2018, with a 2020 commercial launch in at least one city in each EU country. But the telcos also warn that net neutrality stands in the way of innovation and ask governments to lessen strictures enforcing it.

Ars Technica reports that the telcos consider strict interpretation of net neutrality to be a “danger,” because it raises “significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment.”

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“The EU must reconcile the need for open Internet [that is, net neutrality] with pragmatic rules that foster innovation,” says the manifesto. Looser application of net neutrality regulations, say the telcos, would let them introduce “innovative specialized services,” with “network slicing to accommodate a wide variety of industry verticals’ business models on a common platform, at scale and with services guarantees.”

The European Commission digital chief Gunther Oettinger, who compared net neutrality proponents to the Taliban, says he looks forward to discussions with the coalition, to “help us focus on the key levers to ensure European digital leadership in 5G.”

“The manifesto is a valuable input for the 5G action plan that will be presented in September, together with the proposal for the review of the telecom regulatory framework,” he adds.

The commission will also consider “public consultation” that runs until July 18. Because 5G will enable “connected cars, mobile health, transport and logistics, smart grids, and smart cities, as well as media and entertainment,” other signatories to the telcos’ manifesto include Airbus, Philips and Siemens.

Meanwhile, EU citizens will be able to avail themselves of netBravo, an app developed by the Brussels-based Joint Research Centre, to “assess the robustness of their mobile connection,” be it Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, or GSM. “As we head into summer and many European citizens will be traveling, the netBravo application will be a useful tool to help consumers make the best choice of operators,” said EU culture commissioner Tibor Navracsics.