5G should cover 70% of industrial sites by 2025, tech sector tells EU leaders
By 2025, 5G connections should cover 40 per cent of Europe’s workforce, 70 per cent of its industrial sites, and 80 per cent of its main logistics routes. This was the message from DigitalEurope, the trade association for the European tech industry, at the launch of a new Industry 4.0 policy document.
Speaking at its flagship digital policy event, Masters of Digital 2020, in Brussels, Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, director general at DigitalEurope, said the European Union (EU) member states must raise their investment in digital technologies above 10 per cent of budget.
Current EU proposals allocate closer to three per cent of budget, as it stands. EU leaders are scheduled to meet on February 20 to negotiate over the bloc’s trillion-euro budget, complicated by the UK’s exit from the union. The European Commission has drafted an industrial strategy, to be finalised in March, to make “Europe fit for the digital age”.
Bonefeld-Dahl commented: “Europe needs to build on its strengths in… health, manufacturing, green tech, energy, and transportation. Digitalisation has huge potential to make our industry greener and more competitive, and to provide good, well-paid jobs.”
“We urge member states to put their money where their mouth is on the EU budget. When leaders gather in Brussels on 20 February they need to set an ambitious goal for digital investment, right now it is only three per cent of the budget – anything below 10 per cent would hinder the implementation of the [‘Europe fit for the digital age’] vision.”
In a speech at the Masters of Digital 2020 event, at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, she set EU targets for industrial 5G deployments, as above, including 70 per cent of industrial sites and 80 per cent of logistics routes.
On the subject of 5G, specifically, the new policy document states that an industrialised version of it — roping massive machine-type (mMTC) ultra-reliable low-latency (URLLC) communications in the forthcoming standalone versions (to be standardized in 3GPP Releases 16 and 17) — must be prioritized across Europe.
It calls for a “favourable regulatory environment for industry connectivity”, which is being shaped already by moves in the UK and Germany, notably, to liberalize spectrum holdings for industrial access to affordable high-capacity LTE and 5G networks.
The EU should “prioritise long-term societal benefits deriving from spectrum auctions over immediate state revenues, notably by setting low reserve prices, providing certainty regarding licence duration, and encouraging broader rollout and coverage,” it states.
The new policy document defines five areas that require urgent attention from political leaders for the EU to make the most of the economic opportunities afforded by new Industry 4.0 technologies, including 5G, keeping climate change and workforce automation as key challenges.
These include an EU framework for the digital transformation of industry, with a digital spending set at 10 per cent of budget, at least — of which half should be focused on deployment, it states. Funding the EU’s current 2021-2027 Digital Europe programme should be raised from €9.2 billion to €25 billion, it adds, essentially to cope with short-term workforce training and displacement from the impact of industrial analytics and automation.
Other recommendations include: ‘open markets and fair global competition’, with the EU taking a lead on data governance and cybersecurity; ‘upscaling and upskilling the workforce’, with detail of new ‘digital innovation hubs’ and new curricular initiatives; and alignment with the EU’s Green Deal, which sets a target for the continent to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The document states: “For a European digital transformation of industry, the European Commission would need to shift its digital policy focus towards driving the digitalisation of industry… The digitalisation of our industry is a precondition to reach the Green Deal… We need a consolidated European Industrial Strategy under a common plan.
“Research, investment, and innovation must go hand in hand… We need common metrics on how digital will enable decarbonisation and reduce energy consumption. We also need to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence technologies. This requires a targeted and ambitious Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
“It is vital we safeguard the proposed funding for the Digital Europe programme, and if possible, increase it… Funding authorities should prioritise EU spending on digitally transforming programmes and initiatives. This includes money earmarked for other areas like transport, agriculture, and regional development.”