The new 5G Observatory report which has been published today, suggests that an urban-centric 5G rollout may widen the digital divide in the EU.
The report finds that if mobile operators want to achieve significantly higher mobile data speeds than those offered by 4G, they need to roll out 5G in higher frequency bands such as the 3.4-3.8 GHz band.
Yet data suggests rolling out 5G in the mid-band in rural areas is uneconomic as it requires too many base stations.
Therefore, mobile network operators are likely to rely on lower frequency bands such as the 700 MHz band. This means that it is unlikely that rural areas will benefit from “step change” 5G only possible in higher bands.
Countries such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary may suffer more because they have high rural populations. In Romania, over 10 million people could miss out on the benefits of “step change” 5G if mid-band 5G is only made available in urban areas.
The European Commission’s Digital Decade sets out ambitious targets for 5G rollout, including a goal of uninterrupted 5G for all urban areas and transport paths by 2025.
You can read find the full 5G Observatory report here. The chapter featuring this analysis is called “Explorations and reflections”.