Europe, South Korea enter 5G development pact

Seeking to lead the world into the dawn of 5G wireless networks, South Korea and the European Union have signed off on a pact that will see them collaborate on systems, standards and radio-frequency harmonization.


The pact was first reported on June 15 by The Wall Street Journal, which claimed to have seen a draft of the agreement. The ICT cooperation pact was subsequently signed June 16 in Seoul by Neelie Kroes, EC vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, and Mun-Kee Choi, South Korea's Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning.

EU and South Korea intend to reach a global consensus and vision regarding 5G development by the end of 2015. An industry memorandum of understanding will be signed between the 5G Infrastructure Association, which is based in Belgium, and South Korea's 5G Forum.

The pact reflects growing concern among European government leaders that the region, which has lagged considerably in rolling out LTE, will continue to follow rather than lead as the next-generation of wireless technology is developed and deployed.

The WSJ noted that China's Huawei is investing $600 million through 2018 in 5G. Interestingly, that could ultimately benefit Europe as Huawei has repeatedly expressed a desire to position itself as a "European company."  

In a separate article, the WSJ reported that senior executives from Huawei met European political and industry leaders last week at three events in four days, promising to bring the region more investment and jobs. With the Chinese firm's growing presence in the region, European leadership in 5G would also benefit Huawei's interests on the continent.

Of course, European leaders are likely more interested in seeing their local mobile infrastructure vendors--Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)--succeed in 5G. South Korea, meanwhile, is encouraging its homegrown vendors, such as Samsung--which produces infrastructure and is also the world's largest maker of smartphones--to delve into 5G. And both the EU and South Korea want their local vendors to establish firm 5G intellectual property rights.

South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning announced in January that it was committing $1.5 billion to its "5G Creative Mobile Strategy."

Samsung claims to have made some 5G inroads already. During May 2013, the vendor announced an adaptive array transceiver technology operating in the millimeter-wave Ka bands that it said will enable data downlink speeds of 1 Gbps. Samsung said it hopes to commercialize the technology by 2020.

In December 2013, the European Commission kicked off 5G PPP with a financial commitment from the European Union of 700 million euros (equivalent to $963 million at the time) in 5G research. The investment is part of a multibillion-dollar EU research program called Horizon 2020, which is focused on developing areas that represent a large part of the European economy.

Though the United States does not have an official, government-sanctioned 5G development effort, academics and private enterprises are nonetheless deeply involved in 5G-related research. For example, the NYU Wireless program, launched in August 2012 by New York University's Polytechnic School of Engineering, is working on millimeter-wave technologies and other research deemed crucial to 5G.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article and this article (sub. req.)
- see this EC release
- see FierceWireless: Europe's take on this story
- see this Mobile World Live article

Related articles:
METIS task group lays out first 5G channel models
China, South Korea commit to 5G leadership, while Japan and U.S. rely on private efforts
Let's make the most of 4G before rushing to 5G, says GSMA's Bouverot
EU sets €700M budget for 5G research by 2020
Samsung's new '5G' tech 'several hundred times faster' than LTE Advanced

Article updated June 16, 2014, with new information.