Some of the world’s largest telecoms companies have signed a 5G manifesto, aimed at driving forward the deployment of next-generation mobile networks.
The manifesto pledges to launch fast 5G mobile networks in every country within the European Union by 2020.
However, it also says current net neutrality regulations could hamper innovation and cause “significant uncertainties”.
The signatories include BT, Nokia, Orange, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom.
Neutrality and the web
The concept of net neutrality refers to all internet data traffic being treated equally, with no content provider able to gain an advantage over another.
Campaigners believe it is the best way to enable free and open competition on the internet.
“The EU and member states must reconcile the need for open internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation,” the 5G manifesto says.
“The telecom industry warns that the current net neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC [the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications], 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 fifth generation
The document also outlines the businesses’ commitment to launching 5G in a minimum of one city per EU country by 2020.
5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, and is likely to be significantly faster than the currently available 3G and 4G.
In October 2015, the European Parliament voted against amendments backed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Netflix and Reddit designed to safeguard net neutrality, creating an unequal internet campaigners fear could stifle future innovation.
“Telecom companies cannot blackmail Europe into weakening net neutrality in exchange for investment in 5G networks, and it is disappointing that the European Commission appear to have endorsed their manifesto,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
“True innovation is not about protecting the vested interests of large telcos.
“BEREC need to publish net neutrality guidelines that will protect the free and open internet for small businesses and consumers as well.”
One analyst told the BBC the telecom companies needed the confidence that the business and regulatory environment would be stable for the lifetime of their investment in a 5G infrastructure.
“I think it’s less about net neutrality and more about clarity on the regulatory environment, and to help telecoms companies plan the business case for 5G,” said Ian Fogg, analyst at IHS Technology.
“They need confidence that the regulatory environment will stay stable for a period of years.”