What lies ahead for regulation of the 5G ecosystem?

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Speaking at the 2020 European Spectrum Management Conference on 23 June 2020, Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, described 5G connectivity as an “important pillar” for the EU (especially in light of the EU’s post-COVID economic recovery) and that “it is important to ensure the rapid deployment [of 5G] as a matter of political priority”.

At the regulatory level, 5G is also at the core of the strategic priorities of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) for 2021 – 2025.  The monitoring of regulatory developments in the EU relating to the deployment of 5G is an important strand of BEREC’s work (as well as a priority for all EU Member States with similar connectivity ambitions).  As part of its 5G engagement, BEREC has published two documents: (i) the 5G Radar, an interactive tool which sets out the regulatory aspects of the 5G ecosystem; and (ii) a draft Guide to the 5G radar (both documents are available to view on BEREC’s website).

The 5G Radar

The purpose of the 5G Radar and the accompanying Guide is to assist BEREC, National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) and, in turn, European industry stakeholders, to monitor the regulatory aspects associated with the 5G ecosystem and to anticipate what regulatory changes may be needed to “keep pace” with innovation. BEREC acknowledges in the Guide that the way these regulatory aspects are addressed “could be critical to the pace at which innovative services are brought to the market”.

The 5G Radar includes 23 regulatory aspects/developments that BEREC considers to be relevant to its work, and the work of NRAs, in the coming years. Several of these regulatory aspects were already identified in BEREC’s Report on the impact of 5G on regulation and the role of regulation in enabling the 5G ecosystem, published in December 2019. 

The 5G Radar is designed around several themes: new business models and value chains, numbering, privacy, roll-out, end-users, sustainability, state aid, roaming, quality of service, security, convergence and interoperability. Some of the 23 regulatory aspects identified include, for example:

  • Roaming requirements: the deployment of 5G may necessitate an assessment of whether the current EU regulatory framework for roaming reflects the fact that international roaming services like Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) will play an increasingly significant role in the future. At the national level, operators may require national roaming or infrastructure agreements to cover new services;
  • Sustainability: the new services made possible by 5G may impact data consumption and it will be important to monitor the levels of energy efficiency of 5G systems; and
  • Network and application security: any system vulnerabilities could cause serious damage to critical infrastructure and services. Monitoring network and application security, especially in the IoT context where there are several connected devices and entry points for possible security attacks, will be important.

The 5G Radar also reflects the fact that the deployment of 5G will be gradual and that certain regulatory aspects will be more significant, and require more attention by BEREC and NRAs, than others at any given time.

The draft Guide

The accompanying Guide provides a detailed analysis of the regulatory aspects that have been identified in the Radar and a comprehensive overview of the gradual evolution of 5G services and the areas requiring “regulatory judgment” at a given time. The Guide is also useful for industry stakeholders and NRAs as it provides an explanation of the use cases and regulatory challenges that EU Member States and NRAs will likely face in the future.

BEREC opened a consultation on the draft Guide on 16 June 2020. Stakeholders are invited to provide their responses and comments by 31 July 2020.

For further information contact Anthony Rosen and Nicholas Puschman.

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