A new report by the GSMA has revealed that mobile technologies and services contributed Eur757 billion to European GDP in 2021, but Europe’s ambitious Digital Decade goals remain threatened by slower 5G rollout compared to competitor markets.
The 2022 Mobile Economy Report Europe shows that at the end of June 2022, 108 operators in 34 markets across Europe had launched commercial 5G services, with consumer take-up continuing to grow steadily, now reaching 6% of the mobile customer base. Norway leads in adoption of the technology, with 16% now using 5G, but positive momentum is also evident in Switzerland (14%), Finland (13%), the UK (11%) and Germany (10%).
However, tough market conditions are leaving Europe trailing its global peers. The report predicts that by 2025, the average adoption of 5G across Europe will hit 44%, with the UK and Germany expected to have the highest 5G adoption rates in Europe at 61% and 59% respectively. However, that rapid growth is outpaced by other world economies, with South Korea expected to hit 73% in the same time period, whilst Japan and the US are likely to achieve 68% adoption.
The pace of 5G coverage expansion across Europe will be a key factor in the transition from 4G to 5G, an important step towards the achievement of Europe’s Digital Decade goals. Although 5G network coverage in Europe will rise to 70% in 2025 (from 47% in 2021), nearly a third of the population will remain without such coverage. This compares to 2% or less in South Korea and the US.
In 2021, the European Commission (EC) set out its vision for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030 in the Digital Decade framework. The strategy promised to deliver tangible benefits for EU economies through the development of digital skills, digital transformation of business, sustainable digital infrastructures and the digitalisation of public services.
As economies digitalise, the lynchpin to ensuring success is the acceleration of 5G in Europe for traditional industry and manufacturing to remain competitive. To meet the EC’s 2030 goals, it is vital for policymakers to create the right conditions for private infrastructure investment, network modernisation and digital innovation.
Daniel Pataki, GSMA Vice President for Policy and Regulation, and Head of Europe, 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 also examines how European operators are progressing with the rollout of stand-alone (SA) 5G networks, noting that 5G SA services in Europe are now available in Finland, Germany and Italy. Further deployments are expected in the next few years. The added functionality enabled by 5G SA is key to delivering on the promise of fully supporting advanced 5G use cases.
The report also found that European operators are also at the forefront of cutting-edge, energy-efficient technologies and the use of renewables, with many already reaching 100% renewable electricity use across their footprints, powering their network infrastructure, data centres and other sites.