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Summary

This report builds on the findings of the Nordic-Baltic 5G Monitoring Tool (N-B 5G MT) project ‘Analytical Report’, which focused on mapping 5G activities in the Nordic-Baltic region and analysing their roll-out status. In this follow-up report, we delve deeper into actual 5G applications across different verticals (i.e. sectors), including healthcare, transportation/mobility, industry and media/broadcasting. Informed by stakeholder discussions that took place in 2023 at the 5G N-B MT project events, the objective was to explore the challenges facing these verticals when it comes to developing 5G-enabled applications.
Specific bottlenecks were emphasized in each vertical, such as limited financing in public healthcare systems hindering early-phase developments; technical limitations (e.g. coverage issues) in transportation and mobility; market immaturity affecting investment incentives in industry; and complexities in securing spectrum allocation and infrastructure investments in media and broadcasting. These sector-specific limitations underscore the complexities of deploying 5G technology and highlight the need for tailored strategies to address them. Nonetheless, the project’s key findings point to a number of cross-cutting challenges that require comprehensive attention and solutions:
  • Uncertain business cases: Despite an overwhelming consensus on the potential impact of 5G technology deployment across various industries in Nordic and Baltic societies, uncertainty remains concerning the empirical validation of this potential and the specific requirements of each vertical. Stakeholders in all four verticals explored in this report still struggle to identify clear benefits, leading to a reluctance to invest in 5G applications and infrastructure. Addressing this challenge requires validation of the efficiency and effectiveness of 5G technology in meeting sector-specific needs. Thus, creating an enabling environment for innovation, fostering collaboration between public and private stakeholders, and promoting digital literacy are seen as essential for sending out positive market signals. It also points to the need for further research on 5G’s added value for connectivity, as well as its broader societal impact.
  • Financial barriers: Current funding for early-stage development and testing of new 5G applications is considered to be insufficient. Moreover, the significant costs associated with deploying 5G networks – exacerbated by unclear pricing models and limited investment incentives – can also be particularly challenging due to uncertain returns on investment or limited demand for 5G services. Addressing these bottlenecks requires supportive funding mechanisms and regulatory frameworks to be put in place to encourage private sector investment. Prioritizing funding for research and development initiatives aimed at addressing infrastructure challenges and driving business models’ innovation is also essential to overcoming these barriers.
  • Technical and infrastructural limitations: These limitations are more pronounced in rural and underserved areas due to insufficient commercial interest, thereby exacerbating existing ‘connectivity divides’. This highlights the need to create supportive regulatory frameworks and financial incentives aimed at encouraging private sector infrastructure investments in underserved regions, thus extending network coverage and improving connectivity.
  • Regulatory constraints: The technical, infrastructure and financial challenges mentioned above are closely intertwined with regulatory constraints related to spectrum allocation, licensing requirements, data security and privacy. This points to the complexity of regulatory requirements and the importance of addressing sector-specific needs. It also highlights the need for policymakers and regulators to work closely with other stakeholders to develop tailored regulatory frameworks.
  • Security, privacy and ethics: These issues are closely linked to regulatory challenges and include concerns about data protection and management, GDPR compliance and cybersecurity. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach involving policymakers, industry stakeholders and regulators, with the objective of ensuring transparency, accountability and compliance.
  • Acceptability and usability barriers: Simplifying 5G technology for wider adoption outside research trials is essential, as is addressing community resistance to infrastructure development. Such challenges can be mitigated by robust regulatory frameworks and public awareness campaigns to promote digital literacy, as well as investment in education and training programmes aimed at developing the necessary workforce skills for the 5G ecosystem.
  • Collaboration challenges: The obstacles to collaboration are linked to competitive dynamics, different regulatory frameworks, and security and privacy concerns. Fostering an environment conducive to collaboration should be a priority, in particular through the development of forums, dialogue sessions and regular thematic roundtables that bring together diverse stakeholders, including regulators, operators, regional actors (e.g. universities and municipalities) and even property owners. Such spaces can help facilitate an inclusive, fruitful exchange of ideas, bridging the gap between pilot projects and market applications. In addition, initiatives that promote cross-border and cross-sectoral cooperation, such as joint research projects and public–private partnerships, should be encouraged.
Overall, the report emphasizes the need for a systemic approach to addressing these challenges. This includes clarifying the business value of 5G; fostering ecosystems for collaboration; and ensuring that policy and regulatory frameworks support the innovative, equitable deployment of 5G technology. Overcoming these hurdles will require concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including governments, industry and the wider community. Only then will the transformative potential of 5G for society be fully realized.