Europe - Mobile Network Operators and MVNOs
Europe’s MNOs progressing on path to 5G
Europe remains a global workhorse in the development of mobile technologies, services and applications. Vendors within the region have been at the forefront of technological progress, and they remain so with the ongoing migration to 5G. The region includes some smaller countries by population, such as Luxembourg, Iceland and Malta, as well as well as some with substantial subscriber bases, including Germany, France, Russia and the UK. In general terms the region’s wealth, supported by the high disposable income of a populace largely recovered from the effects of the GFC, has fostered a wide range of services which have in turn stimulated innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
The mobile sector has also been supported by pan-regional efforts to co-ordinate a migratory path from older technologies to 5G. The European Union has for some time been engaged in efforts to develop the European Digital Single Market, recently updated from 2020 to 2025. Associated with this is the 5G Action Plan, providing a roadmap for public and private investment in 5G and related infrastructure. Europe’s MNOs are heavily engaged in this enterprise. In the process, some operators have developed plans to close down 2G and 3G services: BT in the UK aims to close its 3G network by 2022 as it transitions to 5G and makes more intense use of its 4G capabilities. Physical assets as well as spectrum concessions, which are currently used for these older technologies, are being repurposed by operators as they concentrate investment in 4G and 5G services.
While there are a large number of operators in the region, there are also a few pan-regional players, including Telefónica (O2), Orange Group, Telekom Deutschland (T-Mobile), Telenor and Telia Company. These operators are able to capitalise on scale as well as on applying the experiences gained in one market to benefit services in another. This increasingly applies to emerging technologies, including FttP, iterations of LTE, and 5G. As such, these operators are increasingly morphing from being providers of mobile voice and data services to being providers of a full range of converged services, incorporating mobile and fixed-line services as well as digital media.
With regards to 5G, some early commercial launches are expected by late 2019 while a more extensive availability of services is anticipated during 2020. Factors which will influence operators’ decisions on timing the launch of 5G within European markets include the affordability and availability of 5G-compatible smartphones, and the availability of sufficient spectrum assigned for 5G. The 5G Action Plan is addressing this latter consideration through a co-ordinated response to the release and auction of 5G-suitable spectrum in the 3.4-3.8GHz range as well as the 26GHz ‘pioneer’ band, in addition to refarmed spectrum in the 700MHz band.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Bouygues, Cosmote, DNA, EE (BT), Elisa, Free, Hutchison (3), KPN, Lifecell (Asterlit), MDC, MegaFon, Meo, MTS, NOS, O2-CR, Orange, Polkomtel, Proximus, SFR, Sunrise, Swisscom, TDC, Tele 2, Telecom Italia, Telefonica (O2), Telekom Austria, Telekom Deutschland (T-mobile), Telekom Romania, Telenet (BASE), Telenor, Telia, VEON (Vimpelcom) (Beeline), Vivacom, Vodafone, Wind-Tre, Yoigo.