The European Commission announced a strategic agreement on Monday to cooperate with China on the development of 5G networks.

The deal comes as China is ramping up its 5G and pre-5G efforts to roll out consumer-ready networks by 2020. The high-speed 5G connection is also a vital element in China’s booming Internet of Thing market, as well as a key component in their Smart Cities initiatives.

The European Commission has recently signed similar agreements with Asian market leaders in 5G technology, Japan and South Korea. Both countries, along with China, have made commitments to roll out networks within the next five years.

The deal could mean that the European Commission will have access to the research conducted by China and vice versa. The two countries may also be able to access funding from partnered research associations. China and Europe will work together on standardizing of 5G rollout, including the promotion of a unified spectrum. 

“By 2020 there will be more than 30 times as much mobile internet traffic as there was in 2010.” said the European Commission in a statement. “5G won’t just be faster, it will also be the backbone of our digital future.”

The agreement was signed during a trade and economic dialogue held in Beijing this week. It follows several EU partnerships from Chinese telecommunications companies. In July Huawei announced their involvement with the European 5G Public Private Partnership (PPP), one of the associations that could be sharing funds with Chinese researchers under the new agreement. 

East Asian countries have made strong commitments to 5G development. South Korea, the regional leader in 5G research, has committed to rolling out networks by the 2018 Winter Olympics, While Japan made a similar commitment for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Chinese providers Huawei and ZTE have both committed to a 2020 deadline, already testing their services. 

Currently, a lack of funding and allocated spectrum as well as security concerns are the biggest barriers to 5G development globally. The latest partnership could help China and the EU promote a global standard spectrum while pooling funding and research data.

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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