Could Finland serve as an example for the other EU countries?
Communication networks are a necessity for society. We need fast connections and high data transfer capacity. Good cooperation between the authorities and industry, as well as Finland’s progressive spectrum policy, have propelled the country to the forefront of mobile technology and 5G and created an opportunity for companies to invest heavily in networks.
The Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications, Timo Harakka, spoke in a joint webinar between FiCom and EuroISPA on the prospects for 5G development in Europe on 17 June 2022. Finland was the first EU country to introduce the 5G spectrum. Today, 70% of the country’s municipalities and 84% of households are already covered by the 5G network. In addition to networks covering the entire country, 5G bands were also reserved for local networks to meet the needs of the industry. Minister Harakka emphasised that it is crucial for European competitiveness for all EU countries to be involved in 5G development.
5G means not only faster wireless network connections but also zero latency and even greater data transmission capacity. These will enable a whole new range of services and business opportunities in all areas of society. For industry, 5G means more efficient processes, automation and new production methods. It will also bring benefits, for example, for healthcare, transport and logistics chains.
Increasing data transfer also means increasing the risks. Finland, like Europe as a whole, needs to identify and manage threats related to communication networks. Cybersecurity must be taken into account as early as during the planning phase of networks, Minister Timo Harakka reminded the webinar participants. The EU’s common range of cybersecurity approaches, the 5G Toolbox, offers concrete ways to increase the security of member countries’ networks. Finland is committed to complying with the recommendations of the toolbox.
According to the Finnish legislation, equipment that might endanger national security must not be used in critical parts of the telecommunications network. If irregular activities are detected, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency has the right to remove the device from the network. In order to ensure cyber security, continuous cooperation between the authorities and the private sector is vital. The newly established cyber security advisory board has an important role in facilitating discussions between the different parties.
While 5G networks are being rapidly built in Finland, attention is already turning to the next generation of mobile networks. Finland has also distinguished itself in the research and development of 6G technology. Although it cannot compete with the research budgets of large countries, Finland has an advantage in terms of expertise, pioneering, agility and, above all, the ability to cooperate. The development of 6G technology first requires a common agreement on its prerequisites, basic solutions and standards. International cooperation has an important role to play here.
Minister Harakka believes it is important for the 6G vision to align with Western values and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. For example, 5G cannot yet achieve the goal of global network coverage, but 6G should make it possible. This requires the energy consumption of networks to also be significantly reduced, even if the number of network devices increases.
“A competitive market, a successful and active spectrum policy and, above all, good cooperation and dialogue between industry and the authorities have been decisive factors in Finland’s success,” said Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka. Cooperation has enabled a small country like Finland to utilise its limited resources efficiently. Effective cooperation is also needed at the international and EU levels.