Tue, 17 May 2022

BRUSSELS, Belgium: A European Union watchdog, the European Court of Auditors (ECA), has warned that the EU faces considerable economic and security threats unless member countries step up cooperation on operating the 5G mobile network.

The warnings are included in a special report on the 27-nation bloc's preparations for 5G, that will have greater technological innovations, but also vulnerabilities.

The study reported that Europe is falling behind North America and Asia in the rollout of 5G networks, and the EU must adopt a strategy to counter related national-security risks.

In the 69-page report, the European Court of Auditors said, "There are considerable delays in the member states' deployment of 5G networks and further efforts are necessary to address security issues in 5G deployment."

With the economic stakes remaining high, EU nations are moving too slowly because of a failure to take the necessary actions, such as assigning radio spectrums for 5G services, the report added, noting that the bloc's member states will miss a common rollout target of 2025, when uninterrupted 5G coverage should be available in urban areas and along main transport routes.

According to a telecommunications industry study cited by the the European Court, by mid-decade only 35 percent of all mobile connections in Europe will be 5G, compared with 51 percent in North America and 53 percent in Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, while the projected 2025 figure for China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan is 48 percent.

Therefore, most EU countries could also fail to achieve their joint goal of making 5G 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, adding that the lost economic benefits for the EU could be considerable.

Differences among EU countries over 5G security could partly explain the delays in the rollout of the infrastructure, the ECA added, highlighting the differences between member-state in the treatment of Chinese 5G vendors, such as Huawei, which are accused by the U.S. of serving the geopolitical ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party.

Compared to the U.S. government, which has taken a hard line against Chinese suppliers' involvement in American 5G networks, the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has been constrained by the fact that national-security decisions are made separately by member countries.

After the ECA published its report, the European Commission offered assurances on 5G security, stressing that it is "very attentive to reinforcing the security of 5G networks."

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