neelie kroes eu digital chief

What comes after LTE? Europe’s digital chief, Neelie Kroes, is determined to find out.

Aiming to make Europe a wireless leader once again, Kroes (above, scoping out a connected car) announced today at Mobile World Congress that she’s pouring €50 million (around $65.3 million) into the development of next-generation 5G networks, GigaOm reports. She hopes for “delivery” of 5G by 2020 — but that will likely be difficult since it EU countries will have to figure out wireless spectrum issues.

“Europe used to lead the world on wireless… European 5G is an unmissable opportunity to recapture the global technological lead,” Kroes said today.

Kroes is hoping to spur on research for wireless technology that’s that faster, more power efficient, and more efficient with spectrum than 4G LTE. LTE manufacturers and chip makers have made huge strides when it comes to battery consumption, but it remains the single biggest problem for most LTE devices. If we are to rely on our smartphones more in the future, we need them to last more than a work day.

The 5G investment is part of a public and private partnership across the European mobile industry. Major EU carriers like Telefonica, Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom are also involved (no surprise there). The biggest problem for the continent is the harmonization of wireless spectrum (basically, agreeing on the same spectrum to make wireless deployments and roaming simpler). Kroes likens Europe’s current spectrum map to “a bowl of spaghetti.”

Photo: Campus Party Europa/Flickr