EU sets €700M budget for 5G research by 2020

The European Commission has kicked off a public-private partnership that will see the European Union invest around €700 million ($963 million) in "5G" research as part of a new €6.2 billion ($8.53) EU research programme called "Horizon 2020," matched by equal levels of investment from the private sector.

A total of eight contractual Public Private Partnerships (cPPPs) are grouped under the programme. The goal of the 5G Infrastructure PPP (5G PPP) is to focus on advanced 5G networks in order "to stimulate the development of network internet infrastructure to ensure advanced ICT services for all sectors and users".

"This is a great opportunity for Europe,"  Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner responsible for the digital agenda, said in a statement. "These PPPs will maintain our global lead in robotics, photonics, high performance computing, telecoms and give us a head start in smart cities, intelligent transport, education, entertainment, media and other promising markets."

The overall aim of Horizon 2020 is to focus on areas that represent a large part of the European economy. For instance, the telecommunications sector employs at least 1.2 million people in the EU and Europe has a 27 per cent share of a €17 trillion global market.

The Commission intends to award funding for the cPPPs through open calls under the Horizon 2020 work programme, with around €1.45 billion earmarked for the eight PPPs in the first work programme for 2014-2015. The budget for the 5G PPP will be €125 million in this first phase.

The challenge set out for the 5G PPP will be to secure Europe's leadership in the particular areas where Europe is strong or where there is potential for creating new markets such as smart cities, e-health, intelligent transport, education or entertainment & media.

The EU has previously lamented the fact that Europe has fallen behind other countries on LTE or "4G," and Kroes has previously suggested that Europe should "forget 4G" as it had missed the opportunity to be ahead in that market and instead focus on taking the lead in 5G network technology.

The GSMA greeted such comments with horror: "We should be thinking about the future but we should not give up on 4G [LTE]," said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, at an event in Brussels in September. "5G will not come for another 10 years."

On the private side, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) will chair the 5G PPP Association. The vendor welcomed the creation of the PPP as an important milestone towards an industry-wide agreement on use cases, requirements and technologies for 5G.

"LTE and its continuous evolution will be sufficient until the end of the decade," added Dr. Werner Mohr, head of research alliances at NSN, who will chair the 5G PPP Association. "However, after 2020 a new generation of technologies will be needed to address market demands. The industry and academia are working together to create a high-performance 5G environment."

For more:
- see this European Commission factsheet (PDF)
- see this release

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