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EU being hobbled by US in 5G race: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2022-01-25 22:07
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A pedestrian walks past a 5G promotion board. [Photo by Su Yang/For China Daily]

Even as international airlines are hit by the ill-planned rollout of 5G in the United States, the European Union was warned on Monday that it is already falling behind North America and Asia in the rollout of 5G networks because of the considerable delays in its member states' deployment of 5G networks.

In a 69-page report released on Monday, the European Court of Auditors said a majority of the bloc's member states will not be able to ensure uninterrupted 5G coverage in urban areas and along main transport routes by 2025, which is the EU's first rollout target. That means it is likely that most EU countries will also fail to achieve the second target of making all services available to all segments of the population by 2030.

"There is a high risk that the 2025 deadline — and therefore also the 2030 one for the coverage of all populated areas — will be missed by a majority of member states," the ECA said.

It is projected that just 35 percent of all mobile connections in Europe will be based on 5G by 2025, compared with 48 percent in China, 51 percent in North America, and 53 percent in Australia, Japan, Singapore and the Republic of Korea.

The ECA attributed the EU's sluggishness to differences among EU countries over 5G security issues. Annemie Turtelboom, the lead author of the report, even listed Sweden and Germany as examples: While the former bans equipment from Chinese vendors such as Huawei from its telecom networks, the latter does not. That resulted in the absurd conclusion that countries such as Germany are not taking a hard enough line and they need to take tougher measures to exclude Chinese technology from their networks.

Yet the fact is that those European countries lagging behind in their deployment of 5G have flip-flopped on the use of Chinese technology at the bidding of the United States.

The US claims that Chinese technology is a security risk are spurious, no evidence has ever been presented to support the allegations. The claims are because Chinese companies are in the vanguard of the 5G revolution. The Chinese enterprise Huawei is the leading 5G patent holder with 15.4 percent of the global total, followed by Samsung with a 13.3 percent share and Nokia with 13.2 percent. Huawei also leads in 6G, with over 38,000 patents filed globally.

5G's higher data capacity and transmission speed promise huge economic rewards especially for the first movers. Citing an industry study, the ECA indicated that 5G could add as much as 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to the EU economy and create or transform 2 million jobs between 2021 and 2025. But such economic rewards require the EU to not only find more funds to accelerate the deployment of 5G, but also that member states not be misled by the US, which only seeks to gain an advantage for itself in the high-stakes rollout race.

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