The deployment of 5G cross-border corridors along transport paths throughout Europe is expected to contribute to the green and digital transformation of the EU economy and society. In particular, 5G-enabled Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) is seen as a major enabler for improved road safety, optimised road traffic, reduced CO₂ emissions, and industrial competitiveness of both the transport and mobility sector.
The Commission has acknowledged the key role played by 5G cross-border corridors both in Europe’s Digital Decade Strategy and in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. 5G corridors also constitute one of the multi-country projects (MCPs) identified in the Digital Decade Strategy and thus represent one of the main strategic investment areas of the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
In order to prepare the large-scale deployment of 5G corridors, the Member States, industry, and the Commission have joined their efforts over the last few years to conduct testing and trials of 5G-enabled CAM, with the support of Horizon 2020 under the 5G Public-Private Partnership.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Digital programme over the 2022-2027 period will provide financial support to large-scale deployment of 5G corridors, with a planned budget of around €1 billion for this time period. The first Multi-annual Work Programme for the 2021-2025 period, adopted on 16 December 2021, sets a focus on the deployment of cross-border sections along 5G corridors. The first CEF calls were launched in January 2022.
EU Research & Innovation projects for 5G cross-border corridors
As part of the European Commission’s 5G Public Private Partnership, the EU supports 7 5G cross-border corridor trial projects for large-scale testing of 5G enabled CAM solutions, which are co-funded under Horizon 2020. The 7 projects, launched in November 2018 and September 2020, trial 5G technology applied to CAM over cross-border sections of motorways, rail, waterways and ports across 11 borders:
- 5G-CARMEN: motorways along an important north-south corridor from Bologna to Munich via the Brenner Pass
- 5GCROCO: motorways between Metz, Merzig and Luxembourg, crossing the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg
- 5G-Mobix: 2 cross-border corridors between Spain and Portugal, a short corridor between Greece and Türkiye, and six national urban sites in Versailles (France), Berlin and Stuttgart (Germany), Eindhoven-Helmond (Netherlands) and Espoo (Finland).
- 5GMED: 5G-enabled CAM trials for road and rail along the Figueres-Perpignan cross-border corridor between Spain and France
- 5GROUTES: conduct advanced 5G field CAM trials between Latvia-Estonia-Finland over motorways, rail, and shipways
- 5GBlueprint: design and validate 5G-enabled CAM solutions between Belgium and Netherlands over roads, waterways, and in ports.
- 5GRAIL: validate the first set of future rail mobile communication system (FRMCS) across different test sites in Europe
Cross-border initiatives agreed between public authorities
In 2017, following a letter of intent signed on the occasion of the Digital Day in Rome and a round table on connected and automated driving (CAD) in Frankfurt, Member States and industry agreed to establish a pan-EU network of 5G cross-border corridors. On this basis, a large number of Member States and regional authorities have signed and/or announced bilateral agreements for test corridors.
Today the following important initiatives/projects are in place:
- France, Germany and Luxembourg have announced a joint corridor between Luxembourg, Metz and Merzig;
- Norway, Finland and Sweden with the E8 corridor between Tromsø (Norway) and Oulu (Finland) and the E18 corridor between Helsinki, Stockholm and Oslo;
- The Netherlands and Belgium have agreed to the Rotterdam – Antwerp - Eindhoven corridor;
- Spain and Portugal signed a letter of intent to have two joint corridors between Vigo and Porto and between Evora and Mérida, allowing connected automated driving to be tested across borders;
- Slovenia, Hungary and Austria signed a memorandum of understanding on cross-border cooperation to develop and test electric, integrated and autonomous vehicles;
- Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia signed a letter of intent on the Thessaloniki – Sofia – Belgrade corridor to develop experimental 5G cross-border corridors that will allow for the testing of driverless vehicles;
- Poland and Lithuania signed a letter of intent on 5/9/2018 to cooperate on technical, legal and policy of the cross-border CAD corridor 'via Baltica' (Warsaw, Kaunas, Vilnius);
- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia signed a memorandum of understanding for the 'Via Baltica - North';
- Italy and the three presidents of Euroregion Tirol-Südtirol-Trentino have confirmed their intention to work, in cooperation with other interested Member States, on developing the 5G Corridor on the Brenner-pass motorway;
- Munich-Prague: in 2020, the authorities of the Czech Republic and of the Land of Bavaria, Germany signed a joint declaration of intent for cross-border cooperation to build the Munich-Prague 5G corridor in view of CEF Digital;
- France-Spain: on 23 September 2020, France and Spain signed an MoU to strengthen their collaboration for CAM use and services across their border;
- Benelux initiative: on 15 December 2021, the three Benelux Countries adopted a Recommendation to join efforts in ensuring business continuity of 5G connectivity across their borders.
Launch of CEF Digital Calls
The first series of the CEF Digital Calls was published in January 2022 and will lead to the launch of an early wave of deployment projects, as well as inception studies to prepare the launch of a bigger wave of deployment projects in 2023.
Overall, thanks to the support of enhanced cross-border cooperation and the support of EU Research and Innovation funding, a new map of 5G cross-border corridors is progressively taking shape in Europe.