With innovative connectivity becoming more and more crucial to competitiveness and security, telecoms investment reached a record €59.1bn, while 6 in 10 Europeans had access to FTTH by the end of last year. However, only 10 out of 114 networks in Europe were 5G standalone (5G SA) last year and our Continent was lagging behind both Asia and North American on edge cloud offers, signalling that the European connectivity ecosystem is at crossroads.
ETNO, Europe’s leading telecom association, has unveiled its “State of Digital Communications 2024” Report, based on research by Analysys Mason. It comes as the sector awaits the new “Connectivity package on digital infrastructure” by the European Commission, underscoring a sense of urgency around telecom policy.
A “lead or lose” moment for Europe’s connectivity ecosystem
This year’s report, for the first time, tracks progress on innovations such as 5G SA, Open RAN and edge cloud. These technologies are re-defining leadership in connectivity and, as a result, they are crucial to achieving Europe’s socio-economic goals and ensuring Open Strategic Autonomy in tech.
A 5G SA network uses 5G core, meaning it has no dependency on previous generations such as 4G. This enables the most innovative use cases, such as campus networks for manufacturing plants. With 10 operational 5G SA networks, Europe did better than North America with its 4 networks, but trailed Asia, which counted 17.
As for edge cloud, which brings computing capacity close to the end user, Europe counted 4 commercialised offers in 2023, trailing both the Asia-Pacific region (17 offers) and North America (9 offers). In open RAN – the most flexible form of radio access network – Europe counts 11 trials and deployments, which means it is ahead of North America, which counted 8, but behind Asia and Japan, which counted 19. These figures underline the need for a pro-innovation and pro-investment industrial policy addressing Europe’s connectivity ecosystem.