EU Set to Play Leading Role in Developing Global 6G Standards

ByDavid Harmon

October 7, 2021

David Harmon

Research and science policies are drivers of economic growth in Europe

The Horizon Europe research, innovation, and science programme that will operate from 2021-2027 has a budget of €95.5 billion. This clearly demonstrates that the European Commission, the European Parliament, and EU governments fully recognise that investment in research and science will support economic growth and recovery across Europe.

And they’re right to hold this view. The Horizon Europe policy instrument is a driver of economic growth and jobs. It backs basic scientific development through the work of the European Research Council. And it will help deliver new high-tech products into the marketplace via the work activities of the European Innovation Council. The public, private, educational, and research sectors based in Europe and from around the world can engage in widespread research collaborations under Horizon Europe. ICT innovation and digital technologies will play a critical role in delivering upon the objectives of Horizon Europe – thus advancing the broader EU policy goals of digital sovereignty and strategic autonomy.

6G and Horizon Europe

Cluster 4 of Pillar 2 in Horizon Europe is designed to ensure that the EU will play a global leadership role in the development of new technologies that will make the EU economy more competitive. Priority areas of funding under Horizon Europe  include manufacturing and emerging technologies, AI, advanced computing, big data, key digital technologies, robotics, and the next-generation of the Internet. In line with the climate change objectives of the EU – circular industries, advanced materials and carbon clean industry initiatives will all secure strong financial support. The twin priorities of delivering both a digital and green transition for Europe has moved centre stage within the workings of Horizon Europe.

Europe: Set to Be a Global Standard-setter for 6G

EU institutions are in the process of setting up the rules and the governance structures that will roll-out the development of 6G between 2021 and 2030. The European Commission published a regulation in February this year that will see a public private partnership set up – known as the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking (SNS JU) manage the 6G research development programme in Europe. The European Parliament is set to vote on the provisions of this new law when it meets at its plenary session in Strasbourg next month. The 27 EU governments – via the work of the EU Council working group on research – are reviewing how best to approve or amend this new proposed EU regulation.                   

The bottom line is this: Horizon Europe has the primary objective of ensuring that the EU will be a global player in both the development and the deployment of 6G standards and to do so in an environmentally friendly manner.

How Will Future EU 6G Research Collaborations Work in Practice?

The EU institutions want to make sure that this new EU regulation that has the go ahead to set up the new Smart Network and Services Joint Undertaking will be agreed by circa November later this year.  This will ensure that the European Commission can then advertise for a new executive director of this SNS JU.                                                                      

At this stage, it is proposed that the governing board of this SNS JU will have seven members – two from the European Commission and five from the 6G Industry Association (6GIA) and that the European Commission and 6GIA will have 50% of voting rights each on this governing board.

The role of the governing board of the SNS JU is as follows:

  • Foster Europe’s tech sovereignty in 6G.
  • Reduce energy consumption levels for digital infrastructure.
  • Create strong engagement from both the public and private sectors to engage in 6G research.
  • Set the financial contributions from private sector companies that will take part in the SNS JU.
  • Grow vertical markets for 6G usage.
  • Prepare the EU for 6G spectrum licenses.
  • Position Europe to be a global player in the setting of 6G standards.
  • Align 6G strategic roadmaps with EU policies to promote the IOT, cloud, and micro-electronic sectors.
  • Ensure close interaction in the roll-out of 6G research initiatives with other EU initiatives such as the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the Digital Europe Programme.
  • Handle all international aspects of 6G research calls for proposals.
  • Decide how best to disseminate 6G research results.
  • Publish the different 6G calls for proposals and define the scope and nature of these calls.

The Role of Europe in Setting 6G Standards

The EU is in a very strong position to play a leading global role in setting 6G standards. Europe is home to some of the best scientists in the world: one third of all peer-reviewed scientific publications emanate from Europe. And 20% of all global R&D and 25% of all ICT R&D is carried out in Europe. The EU Observatory for ICT Standards and the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI) are centrally involved in setting 5G standards issues and will be key players in the process of setting 6G standards, too.

International Dimension to 6G Development

The public, private, education, and research communities around the world must all work together to set unitary global 6G standards. This will reduce business costs and maintain the integrity of global supply chains. 6G must be developed in an environmentally friendly manner and in line with the climate change policy priorities of the European Union. The need for striking and agreeing global 6G unitary standards is of a paramount importance. The incorporation of digital innovation into how companies operate within all vertical industries is growing every day.

Decoupled 6G standards would only have the net effect of increasing costs for companies and for consumers alike, and it will stifle innovation. This is just not acceptable at a time when both Europe and the world are engaging in economic recovery plans as a direct consequence of COVID. International engagement and co-operation between the private, public, research and educational communities is vitally important if we are all to deliver a 6G that will work for all society.

Let’s go and do it together.


Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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David Harmon

EU Director, Cybersecurity and Privacy, Huawei Technologies

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