EU Digital Commissioner Pushes For Better European 4G Rollout To Support iPhone, iPad And Others

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The European Union’s Commissioner For The Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes told a conference in Brussels on Tuesday that the EU’s member nations should throw their support behind a plan to invest EU funds in 4G network expansion and improvement, in order to provide their citizens with consistent, widespread access to next-gen networks on the latest mobile devices. Apple’s iPhone and iPad both offer only limited connectivity in the EU, where spectrum differences and, in some cases, an absence of 4G networks altogether, force the LTE-capable devices to use 3G connections.

“Where countries don’t make enough spectrum available, quite simply their citizens can’t enjoy 4G connections on the latest gadgets,” Ms. Kroes said, according to the Dow Jones news service. “Without faster 4G roll-out, device makers won’t take Europe into account when planning their latest smartphones.”

Kroes, who has been a vocal supporter of expanding Europe’s next-generation broadband networks in the past, indicated that not only more 4G networks are important, but also those working on the right radio spectrum to ensure device compatibility. That’s something EU member countries seem at least in part eager to make happen, according to our own Natasha Lomas’ report on the European LTE landscape following the iPhone 5′s
release. This morning, the BBC also reports that the U.K. might be pushing for a faster 4G rollout.

The plan Kroes espouses is to take around $64.27 billion out of the EU budget, and use that to invest in projects to expand 4G spectrum reach and availability. Kroes emphasizes that this isn’t a handout, it’s a loan and an investment on the EU’s part designed to be paid back with interest. The plan isn’t popular with everyone; some countries want to go it alone rather than taking money out of EU coffers to fund a widespread approach.

Whatever route EU states end up taking, one things is clear: The iPhone 5 and latest iPad are adding a sense of urgency to Europe’s plans to expand 4G availability.