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Shaping Europe’s digital future

5G is the critical new generation network technology that will enable innovation and support the digital transformation.

© European Commission

5G for Europe: from fixed and mobile to transport corridors and campuses


5G provides virtually universal, ultra-high bandwidth, and low latency "connectivity" not only to individual users but also to connected objects. It is expected to serve a wide range of applications and sectors including professional uses. For example, connected automated mobility, eHealth, energy management, possibly safety applications, and more.

5G will also be a key enabler of artificial intelligence systems, as it will provide real-time data collection and analysis. At the same time, it will bring the cloud to a new dimension by enabling the distribution of computing and storage, such as edge cloud, and mobile edge computing, throughout the infrastructure,

Europe shaping the 5G vision

The European Commission identified 5G opportunities early, establishing a public-private partnership on 5G (5G-PPP) in 2013 to accelerate research and innovation in 5G technology. The European Commission has committed public funding of more than €700 million through the Horizon 2020 Programme to support this activity.

These activities are accompanied by an international plan to ensure global consensus building on 5G. EU investment in 5G research and standards is necessary to support the traffic volume expected by 2025. EU investment will also boost networks and Internet architectures in emerging areas such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

The Commission adopted a 5G action plan for Europe in 2016 to ensure the early deployment of 5G infrastructure across Europe. The objective of the action plan was to start launching 5G services in all EU Member States by end 2020 at the latest. Following this, it suggests a rapid build-up to ensure uninterrupted 5G coverage in urban areas and along main transport paths by 2025.

The Digital Compass: The European way for the digital decade adopted in 2021 sets the additional target to cover all populated areas with 5G by 2030.

To monitor the progress of the 5G Action Plan and the Digital Decade strategy, the Commission is supporting the European 5G Observatory. The Observatory is a monitoring tool covering major market developments in Europe in a global context. It also reports on preparatory actions taken by Member States such as spectrum auctions and national 5G strategies.

The deployment of 5G networks depends closely upon access to radio spectrum, the basis of wireless technologies. As the rate of connected devices and their use increases, spectrum resources and their uses have to be harmonised across Europe to allow for interoperability of infrastructure across borders. This is the basis for a broad range of services delivered with 5G for consumers, such as new smartphone apps, and professional services for various industrial sectors.

Beyond 5G, towards 6G

5G technology and standards will evolve rapidly over the next few years as deployment progresses. Research and Innovation (R&I) initiatives related to 6G technologies are now emerging around the world, with the first products and infrastructures expected to develop by the end of this decade.

6G systems will allow for a shift from Gigabit to Terabit capacities and sub-millisecond response times. This will enable new applications such as real-time automation or extended reality sensing (the Internet of Senses). It will also make data available to facilitate the creation of a digital twin of the physical world.

To support this shift, Council Regulation 2021/2085 established the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) as a legal and funding entity and set out an ambitious EU budget of €900 million between 2021-2027, to be matched by industry. The launch event “On the Road to 6G” took place at the Mobile World Congress 2022 in Barcelona in March 2022.

The two main missions undertaken by the SNS JU are to

  1. foster Europe’s technology sovereignty in 6G by implementing the related R&I;
  2. boost 5G deployment throughout Europe by developing digital lead markets and enabling the digital and green transition of the economy and society.  

Following a first set of 6G projects worth €60 million including the Hexa-X flagship, the SNS JU adopted its first Smart Networks and Services Research and Innovation Work Programme 2021-2022 with an earmarked public funding of about € 250 million. Following the first call for proposals, 35 SNS projects started in January 2023.

Subsequently, a second set of calls launched under the SNS Research and Innovation Work Programme 2023-2024.  The newly selected projects are due to start in 2024 and 2025 respectively.

Find out more information about the call for proposals and the Smart Networks and Services funding opportunities

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