Mobile operators ask for €1bn subsidy to fund 5G data rollout
Mobile phone operators say they want a weakening of telecoms rules and fresh public subsidies of up to €1bn or else consumers may not see 5G mobile networks rolled out.
Vodafone, Three and a host of other operators across Europe have come together to ask for a dilution of so-called 'net neutrality' rules and up to €1bn in taxpayers' money in exchange for them continuing to invest in mobile networks.
At present, 'net neutrality' regulations do not allow mobile operators to ensure their customers get faster access to websites or services of those operators' commercial partners. The rules are supposed to protect startups and small businesses, which cannot afford to compete with multinationals in paying off operators to prioritise access to their websites over mobile networks.
However, the operators say that the strictness of the rules won't match the business cases likely to emerge with 5G.
"Automated driving, smart grid control, virtual reality and public safety services are examples of use-cases with distinguished characteristics which call for a flexible and elastic configuration of resources in networks and platforms, on a continuous basis, depending on demand, context and the nature of the service," said a joint statement from the operators, entitled '5G Manifesto'.
"The current Net Neutrality guidelines 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."
The mobile operators are also looking for up to €1bn of public money to be spent on 5G-related "trials" and a separate publicly-financed "5G venture fund" over more than €1bn to invest in 5G startups.
"Such grants can be between the €0.5bn to €1bn range, also from existing EU funding instruments, awarded through agile governance," they said.
"A 5G venture fund instrument, above the €1bn mark, would allow the EU to take equity stakes in European innovative start-ups aiming at developing 5G technologies and applications across verticals."
The mobile operators are also looking for hospitals and schools to sign up to 5G services at an "early" stage.