From Standards to Service - the European Way to 5G

Manuela Bargis and Giovanni Romano

IEEE 5G Tech Focus, Volume 1, Number 4, December 2017 


Europe considers 5G an opportunity to promote the whole European economy and the so called “Gigabit Society”. In order to achieve this goal, the European Commission identified some action points and a roadmap to ensure 5G will be a reality by 2020, with Euro2020 football games a showcase for the new system.

This paper provides an insight of the European vision to 5G and the steps required to transform 5G from standards on paper to services for the citizenship.

1, The European Vision to 5G 

The European Union is looking at 5G as a major opportunity to improve the ICT sector and the entire economy in Europe contributing to the digital transformation of EU business and society. The European Commission identified 5G standards as one out of five key priority areas within the initiative “Digitizing European Industry”. The 5G vision encompasses a whole ecosystem and integration of digital communications in everyday life by supporting different public and industrial sectors (such as automotive, energy, environment, transport, health, safety, manufacturing) (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: European vision towards a Digital Single Market [1] 

The European Commission launched in 2013 the 5G Public-Private Partnership (5G-PPP) to accelerate research developments in 5G technology [2] and provide a vision of the new technology (see, for example, [3][4]). Moreover, to accelerate global consensus, the EU has also embarked on international collaborations with Brazil, China, Japan and South Korea.

The strong commitment of the European Commission on 5G has led to: the adoption of a challenging target for the deployment of 5G (and in general very high capacity networks); the definition of detailed actions for the implementation of targets; and the proposal of legislative measures aimed at facilitating 5G development. EC adopted in September 2016 a set of initiatives and legislative proposals to reform the telecom regulatory framework including:

  • the Communication “Towards a European Gigabit Society” [5], defining the strategic objectives for 2025: Europe's competitiveness, economic growth, jobs and cohesion;
  • the Communication “European 5G Action Plan” [6], defining a common plan and timetable towards 5G deployment;
  • the proposal of Directive “Establishing the European Electronic Communications Code” [7], providing new harmonized rules on communication network and services.

The strategic objectives [5] are summarized in the following Table 1.

The European 5G Action Plan identifies a number of deeds to promote the deployment and commercialization of 5G and therefore the accomplishment of the Gigabit Society objectives. The adopted time plan (see Figure 2) aims at the launch of extensive trials in 2017, early 5G networks at the end of 2018 and fully commercial services by 2020. It also recommends that each country defines national 5G deployment roadmaps as part of the national broadband plans. Moreover, the plan identifies a number of spectrum bands (“pioneer bands”) to be harmonized across Europe and adopted by the member states: the 700 MHz band, the 3.4-3.8 GHz band and the 24.25-27.5 GHz band. The document also recommends to evaluate other suitable bands above 6 GHz to be identified for 5G during the World Radio Conference in 2019.

Figure 2: Roadmap to 5G as envisaged in the Action Plan [8] 

The proposal in [7] provides a revision of the rules for communication networks and services and identifies some rules to promote the deployment of 5G (e.g. harmonized spectrum management and small cells deployment facilitation).

The member states are acting in coherence with the above European objectives and action plans. Italy identified five cities (Milan, Prato, L’Aquila, Bari and Matera) to start 5G trials in and therefore enable early launch of 5G services. In particular, the government launched a bid addressed to consortia composed of telco operators, industrial, academic and public partners [9] and made available in September 2017 temporary licenses in the 3.7-3.8 GHz band for pre-commercial trials on 5G technology in the 5 cities mentioned above [10]. TIM with Fastweb and Huawei as lead partners and in coordination with 52 international, national and local bodies will run the business in Bari and Matera. Moreover, other 5G testing projects are promoted by operators. For example, TIM signed an agreement with the Municipality of Turin to build Italy’s first 5G network [11]. Trials will involve different vertical sectors aiming at the support of a Smart City government, the digital transformation and the development of innovative services. In July 2017 TIM signed also a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Republic of San Marino [12] for the creation of a new generation mobile network. Thanks to this agreement the Republic of San Marino will be the first State in Europe - and one of the first in the world - to have a 5G mobile network. Finally, TIM also signed with Ericsson the project “5G for Italy” [13] aiming to create an open ecosystem for research and implementation of innovative projects enabled by 5G.

2. From Standards to Services 

2.1 The 3GPP roadmap 

Several standardization bodies are contributing to the development of 5G, and the key player is 3GPP with a roadmap confirmed in March 2017 (see figure 3).

Figure 3: 3GPP roadmap [14] 

Three milestones are envisaged:

  • “Early Drop” of specifications, planned for December 2017 and requested by many operators planning to anticipate in 2018 the commercial launch of 5G services. It targets mainly the eMBB use case;
  • Release 15, planned for June 2018 and providing the baseline for the 5G Core Network;
  • Release 16, planned for December 2019 and providing the full set of 5G use cases and services.

2.2 The CE branding 

The CE marking is required to commercialize electric and electronic devices in Europe [15]. CE marking is based on directives and proves that the product has been assessed and meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The directives lay down the essential requirements that products have to fulfill. For electric and electronic devices, harmonized European standards have to be developed by the European Standardization Organizations (ESO): ETSI, CEN and CENELEC. The standards set the requirements to ensure the coexistence of different communication services, the safety of use and the absence of harmful substances. In the 5G case, the ESOs relevant harmonized standards are based on the technical specifications developed by e.g. 3GPP.

2.3 The spectrum bands for 5G in Europe 

The European Commission recognized that the bands already identified by ITU-R for IMT use are already potentially available for future 5G use in Europe. Moreover, the frequency band 3400-3800 MHz is considered as the primary band suitable for the introduction of 5G-based services in Europe even before 2020 given that it is already harmonized for mobile networks and offers wide channel bandwidth. Above 6 GHz, the European Commission mandated CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) to define harmonized technical conditions for the 24.25-27.5 GHz (the '26 GHz') band by 2018 [16]. Furthermore, the Commission considers the 31.8-33.4 GHz band as a promising band, and the 40.5-43.5 GHz band as a viable option in the longer term [17].

2.4 Roaming 

Roaming procedures poses some technical challenges which are likely to appear for the first time in 5G systems.

One of the key characteristics of 5G is the support of IoT and network slicing. A network slice is a subset of network resources dedicated to a specific service or application, and characterized by specific parameters like Quality of Service, reliability, throughput and end-to-end delay. A network will support multiple “slices”, e.g. dedicated to IoT, mobile broadband or critical communications, with resources taken from a common pool and dedicated to specific applications.

3GPP technical specifications do not define how a slice is configured, and different mobile operators may configure the slices differently, especially in terms of quality and performance parameters. As a consequence, when roaming a customer would experience different quality of service or even service disruption.

To take care of this issue, GSM Association (GSMA) established a Network Slicing Taskforce with the aim to define a standard specifying what slicing is. Moreover, as it was previously done for Voice over LTE (VoLTE), GSMA is planning to define profiles for slices devoted to different services, therefore enabling customers to experience a consistent quality even when roaming abroad.

2.5 Device testing and certification 

One of the key steps to ensure a consistent experience to customers is to verify that networks and devices are able to talk to each other and work as expected. Note that this is something more and different from the CE marking discussed before. Interoperability testing and device certification states that the device is able to communicate with network elements (e.g. base stations, core network) sold by companies other than the device manufacturer. The result of this activity is the proof that a device sold in any country or in any store (including devices not sold or branded by the mobile operator) can operate correctly in any mobile network, both in the home network and in roaming conditions.

The main organizations involved for Europe are: 3GPP, GCF (Global Certification Forum) and GSMA.

3. Conclusion 

The standardization work on 5G is progressing at a fast pace, and 3GPP plans to deliver the first 5G technical specifications by the end of 2017. The European vision of 5G as the enabler for the Gigabit Society will likely require more complete versions of the specifications, such as those planned for the Release 16. The December 2017 version of 3GPP specifications will in any case pose the base for the development and enablement of 5G trials and networks in Europe. The role of the actors like CEPT for spectrum and GSMA for service profiling and certification is therefore paramount to ensure the transformation of 5G from paper standards to services to the citizens.


  1. European Commission - Strategy - Digital Single Market - 5G for Europe Action Plan
  2. 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership
  3. 5G-PPP Vision Papers & Roadmaps
  4. 5G PPP Architecture Working Group, “View on 5G Architecture”
  5. COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS “Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market - Towards a European Gigabit Society”, COM(2016) 587 final, Brussels, 14.9.2016,
  7. Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the European Electronic Communications Code, COM(2016) 590 final/2, Brussels, 12.10.2016,
  8. European Commission - Strategy - Digital Single Market - Research & Standards
  9. Ministry for Economic Development press note of 16 March 2017 “5 città per il 5G” [in Italian]
  10. Ministry for Economic Development press note of 20 September 2017 [in Italian] “Procedura per l’acquisizione di proposte progettuali per la realizzazione di sperimentazioni pre-commerciali nella disponibilità di spettro radio 3.6 - 3.8 GHz
  11. TIM press note of 3 March 2017 “Turin is the first 5G city in Italy - Agreement signed with the Municipality of Turin:  TIM will build Italy’s first 5G network providing innovative services in the urban area of the Piedmont capital”
  12. TIM press note of 17 July 2017 “The Republic of San Marino is the first 5G State in Europe - Agreement signed to create a new generation mobile network”
  13. TIM and Ericsson joint press note of 2 March 2017 “TIM and Ericsson launch “5G for Italy” program to accelerate the country's digitalization
  14. “3GPP activity towards IMT-2020”, ITU-R WP5D Workshop on IMT-2020 terrestrial radio interfaces,
  15. CE marking,
  16. RADIO SPECTRUM COMMITTEE, DG CONNECT/B4, RSCOM16-40rev3, 7 December 2016  “Mandate to CEPT to develop harmonised technical conditions for spectrum use in support of the introduction of next-generation (5G) terrestrial wireless systems in the Union”
  17. RADIO SPECTRUM POLICY GROUP -STRATEGIC ROADMAP TOWARDS 5G FOR EUROPE -Opinion on spectrum related aspects for next-generation wireless systems (5G), 9 November 2016


Giovanni Romano, Radio Access Standards – coordinator. Giovanni Romano is currently coordinating TIM activities on technical standards related to radio access of GSM, UMTS, LTE, 5G/IMT2020 and their evolutions. In October 2016 Giovanni was nominated Alternate Board Director, representing TIM in NGMN. He is also Board "Champion" for the NGMN 5G Ecosystem Focus Area. Since 1996 Giovanni has been active in several international standardisation fora and he is currently attending 3GPP RAN with the role to co-ordinate the exchange of information between 3GPP and ITU-R. Giovanni served as Vice-Chairman of 3GPP Technical Specification Group RAN for the period 2013-2017. Until 2005 Giovanni was project leader of several activities within the R&D center of Telecom Italia, including UMTS performance evaluation, quality of service verification, standardization, field trials and testing.


Manuela Bargis, Network Engineer in TIM -Technology Innovation Department. Manuela Bargis is currently coordinating activities into Technology Innovation Department with main focus on Internet governance, 5G, software defined and virtualized networks and related  technical regulatory implications. She has been dealing with technical regulation since 2004 contributing to Telecom Italia's positioning within European and national regulatory institutions and bodies and she acted as a technical reference for activities on TIM regulated offers concerning international benchmarks and the compliance to regulatory obligations. She joined the Telecom Italia group in 1999, initially dealing with network architectures and protocols, coordinating activities within European Eurescom projects and contributing to international standardization bodies (ITU-T and ETSI). Manuela Bargis graduated in 1998 in Electronic Engineering at the Politecnico of Turin and in Telecommunications Engineering at the Universidad Politécnica of Madrid.

Editor: Panagiotis Demestichas

Pageviews: 6609

Subscribe to Tech Focus

Join our IEEE Future Networks Technical Community and receive IEEE Future NetworksTech Focus delivered to your email.

Subscribe Now

Article Contributions Welcome


Submit Manuscript

Submit Manuscript via Track Chair

Author guidelines can be found here

Other Future Networks Publications 

Archived Issues 

Contact Us

IEEE Future Networks Tech Focus Editorial Board

Rod Waterhouse, Editor-in-Chief
Mithun Mukherjee, Managing Editor
Imran Shafique Ansari
Anwer Al-Dulaimi
Stefano Buzzi
Yunlong Cai
Zhi Ning Chen
Panagiotis Demestichas
Ashutosh Dutta
Yang Hao
Gerry Hayes
Chih-Lin I
James Irvine
Meng Lu
Amine Maaref
Thas Nirmalathas
Sen Wang
Shugong Xu
Haijun Zhang