October 11, 2023
The Spanish government has launched the next phase of its €1 billion plan to ensure remote areas benefit from the latest mobile tech.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation (MINECO) this week invited applicants to apply for a share of €544 million of funding for 5G standalone (SA) deployments in locations with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.
More specifically, the money has been allocated for both active as well as passive infrastructure, and is targeted at sparsely-populated areas where there are no private sector plans to deploy networks for at least the next three years. Interested parties have until the end of the month to apply.
The government cited the usual 5G use cases we’ve come to expect, including IoT, augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and AI, of course. As for industry sectors, MINECO reckons agriculture, tourism, and various public sectors including healthcare, emergency services and waste collection in particular stand to benefit from the latest mobile tech.
According to World Bank stats, Spain’s rural population stood at 8.9 million in 2022, which equates to 19% of the total population. That puts it roughly on par with its large European neighbours France (18%) and Germany (22%).
When it comes to network coverage though, there is much more to pick between them.
Spain’s highly-competitive telco sector has been very aggressive about extending fibre to every corner of the country. According to the EU’s latest Digital Decade report, which came out in September, fibre-to-the-premises coverage in Spain is 91%, well above the EU average of 56%. It is comfortably ahead of France (73%), and it puts Germany to shame (19%).
It is performing well on 5G too, with the Digital Decade report noting that Spain has now allocated 98% of all 5G pioneer bands. With coverage at 82% versus the EU average of 81%, it is good, but not quite the same runaway success story as the fibre market. This is where MINECO and its big pile of money hopes to make the difference.
Back in July, it distributed €448 million among a group of telcos for the purposes of upgrading rural 5G base stations with fibre backhaul. It also invited applications for €10 million of funding for experimental 5G projects. This latest tender brings total funding to just north of a billion euros.
With this “pioneer programme in Europe, the government continues to promote the deployment of this technology that opens new possibilities for the economic and social development of the country, delving into the strategy to promote territorial cohesion and generate opportunities and quality employment,” said María González Veracruz, secretary of state for telecommunications and digital infrastructure, in a statement (in Spanish).
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