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Business

EU executive sees bloc losing the 4G connectivity race

The European Commission has blamed EU member states for failing to modernize their high-speed mobile phone connections fast enough. It said the global race for up-to-date 4G technology had already been lost.

EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes warned Thursday that member states must do significantly more to introduce next-generation 4G mobile phone connectivity to make sure people reaped the benefits of the superior broadband technology involved.

4G operates up to five times faster than the current 3G network and allows users to download data quicker, watch live television without buffering or make high-quality video calls.

But Kroes said three out of four people living in the European Union couldn't access 4G or LTE mobile connections in their home towns, while virtually no rural areas were covered. She added that in the US over 90 percent of people had 4G access.

National fragmentation

"This is no way to run an economy," Kroes said in a statement in Brussels. "It means that Europeans living in rural areas and those on holiday get treated like second-class citizens – it doesn't matter where you are, you pay money for a device and mobile subscription and it should work everywhere."

The EU executive pointed out that Cyprus, Ireland and Malta had no 4G at all, while only Germany, Estonia and Sweden had advanced next-generation networks in place at least in some regions.

Kroes said Brussels had made huge amounts of spectrum available to meet the needs of high-speed wireless broadband, adding that the problem occurred at national level with many procedural and licensing delays plus auctions that had left many mobile operators little cash for building up networks once they secured the right to do so.

The commissioner said earlier this week she reluctantly had to accept delays in nine out of 14 member states which had committed to free up 800 megahertz of bandwidth for 4G use by January, but had miserably failed to make the deadline.