EC Says Just 1 in 4 Europeans Has Access To 4G

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Neelie Kroes says Europe is falling behind in 4G race and rural LTE is non-existent

The European Commission has once again criticised national governments for not doing enough to accelerate the rollout of 4G services in the EU, claiming three quarters of Europeans have no access to LTE services, while rural 4G is all but absent.

Commission vice president Neelie Kroes said Europe is falling behind in the global 4G race and is in no position to deal with the anticipated 12 fold growth in demand for mobile data by 2018.

Only Germany, Estonia and Sweden are in the advanced stages of their 4G rollout, while LTE is absent entirely in Ireland, Cyprus and Malta. Even in other countries where it is available, coverage is limited to towns and cities.

European 4G

Mobile phone roaming Europe SIM cards © 136240814 ShutterstockShe claimed the EC has done everything it can to facilitate the rollout of 4G, but problems with the allocation of spectrum at national level and the absence of a co-ordinated European strategy have hampered progress.

“I’m on the side of the citizens, the taxpayers, the voters, who just want their phones and tablets to work,” said Kroes.

“It’s frustrating when my phone stops working in Brussels because we only have 3G. Millions share my frustration every day. This is no way to run an economy. It means also that Europeans living in rural areas and those on holiday get treated like second-class citizens,

“It doesn’t matter where you are, you pay money for a device and mobile subscription and it should work.”

Having already criticised governments for not doing enough to free up the 800MHz bandwidth necessary for the rollout of 4G, she has now said the auctioning of spectrum in different countries has led to inconsistencies and delays.

Spectrum inconsistencies

The cost of licenses fluctuates greatly from country to country, meaning operators often don’t have enough money to invest in network infrastructure. Kroes wants more coordination to allow for economies of scale, meaning the rollout of 4G on the same spectrum band could happen in several countries at once.

Without changes, Europe is unlikely to meet the 60 percent coverage needed to cope with the expected growth in data demand. Europe accounts for just five percent of all LTE subscriptions in the world, while the US currently has 90 percent coverage.

“The EU is teetering on the edge of network collapse,” warned Kroes. “Global mobile traffic is predicted to grow 66% a year, smart devices are everywhere and people want to watch video on those devices. Without more spectrum being made available the whole thing falls apart.”

EE, the UK’s only current 4G operator, covers 95 towns and cities and 60 percent of the population. Rival services from O2, Three and Vodafone are expected to launch later this summer.

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