Since the infamous “brexit”, there’s no doubt that the world has been a tad on the topsy turvy side. Now, a group of 20 major telcos including Deutsche Telekom, Nokia, Vodafone, and BT have promised to launch 5G networks in every country in the European Union by 2020. Sounds good right? Well here’s the catch: It will be launched as long as governments decide to weaken net neutrality rules. The group, referred to as a coalition, outline a “5G Manifesto,” which is a seven-page document detailing how the members of the group would launch and roll out 5G across the continent over the coming years. Essentially, they are holding 5G technology at ransom by the warning against regulation that would ensure an open internet.
According to the manifesto, the companies are planning to design a 5G Action plan that will allow them to demonstrate the advantages of 5G with regards to automobiles, cars, health, public safety etc. by the year 2018. The coalition is requesting investment from countries to make way for the infrastructure needed to launch 5G in all 28 of the EU Member States by 2020.
On the other hand, the coalition is also pushing for what they call the “right regulatory environment,”. This involves pointing out the dangers that would come with open internet policies.
According to the manifesto, “The EU must reconcile the need for open Internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation,”. It also goes on to say that “The telecom industry warns that current net neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC [the Body of European Regulators], create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment. Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it.”
So far the EU has already rejected amendments to legislation passed in 2015 that would have protected net neutrality in Europe. The laws currently incorporate loopholes that allow so-called “specialized services” like self-driving cars and medical operation to make use of high speed internet. However, the rules dictate that service providers should “treat all traffic equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference.” So even with loopholes, telecoms would see the rules rolled back even further for innovative services.
Airbus, Siemens, and Phillips are some of the initial supporters of the manifesto. Gunther Oettinger, EU’s Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society stated that “The manifesto is a valuable input for the 5G action plan that will be presented in September, together with the proposal for the review of the telecom regulatory framework.”