BRUSSELS, Belgium: An EU watchdog, the European Court of Auditors (ECA), has warned that the EU faces significant economic and security threats unless member states intensify cooperation to operate the 5G mobile network.
The warnings are part of a special report on the 27-nation bloc’s preparations for 5G, which will have major technological innovations, but also vulnerabilities.
The study reported that Europe is lagging behind North America and Asia in expanding 5G networks, and the EU needs to adopt a strategy to address related national security risks.
In its 69-page report, the European Court of Auditors stated: “There are significant delays in the deployment of 5G networks by Member States and further efforts are needed to address security issues in the deployment of 5G.”
With economic efforts remaining high, EU countries are moving too slowly due to failure to take the necessary measures, such as allocating radio spectrum for 5G services, the report added, noting that bloc member states will miss a common development target in 2025, when uninterrupted 5G coverage should be available in urban areas and along the main transport routes.
According to a study by the telecommunications industry cited by the European Court of Justice, only 35 percent of all mobile connections in Europe by the middle of the decade will be 5G, compared to 51 percent in North America and 53 percent in Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. while the estimated figure for 2025 for China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan is 48 percent.
Therefore, most EU countries may also fail to achieve their common goal of making 5G services available to all sections of the population by 2030.
“There is a high risk that the 2025 deadline, and therefore the 2030 deadline for covering 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 significant.
Differences between EU countries in 5G security may partly explain the delays in infrastructure expansion, ECA added, highlighting differences between Member States in the treatment of Chinese 5G providers, such as Huawei, which is accused by the US of serving the Chinese Communist Party’s geopolitical ambitions.
Compared to the US government, which has been harsh on Chinese suppliers’ involvement in US 5G networks, the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has been limited by the fact that national security decisions are made separately by member states.
Following the publication of its report by the Court, the European Commission offered assurances on 5G security, emphasizing that it is “paying close attention to strengthening the security of 5G networks.”