Some of the biggest telecommunication companies in the EU released a few days ago a document called "The 5G Manifesto". The 7 pages document has been written with the combined effort of companies of the size of Nokia, Vodafone and Ericsson in response to Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger who called for the European communication giants to contribute the shaping and backing of the "5G Action Plan" which is a coordinated effort to create the infrastructure and standards to give Europe the edge in the deployment of this new technology by 2020. The industry giants listened and produced the 5G Manifesto which contains what they believe the governments and the EU as a whole could do to make this project a reality and new Net Neutrality rules play, according to them, a huge part in that context.
Most of the document talks about what you'd expect from a manifesto like that. The need for new standards across the board, the necessity of new infrastructure and the urgency of financing in order to drive the growth of the new technology is stated on multiple occasions. For the most part, the document itself seems reasonable enough. The cause that made more than one eyebrow rise is at the bottom, titled "Shaping of other ICT regulations that otherwise risk creating barriers to 5G services" which we here quote in part.
The EU and Member States must reconcile the need for Open Internet with pragmatic rules that foster innovation. The telecom Industry warns that the current Net Neutrality guidelines, as put forward by BEREC, create significant uncertainties around 5G return on investment. Investments are therefore likely to be delayed unless regulators take a positive stance on innovation and stick to it. Telco and Industry Verticals concur that the implementation of Net Neutrality Laws should allow for both innovative specialised services required by industrial applications and the Internet Access quality expected by all consumers. [...] According to the telecom industry, BEREC’s draft proposal of implementation rules is excessively prescriptive and could make telcos risk-averse thus hampering the exploitation of 5G, ignoring the fundamental agility and elastic nature of 5G Network Slicing to adapt in real time to changes in end-user / application and traffic demand.
Translating from corporate to human, the previous statement roughly means that with the current Net Neutrality rules, it may be too financially risky for the telcos to approach the 5G technology. This is because 5G apparently implements a concept called "Network Slicing" (which is mentioned twice in the document but never detailed) that apparently does not spouse well with the current regulations.
Net Neutrality, as a concept, means that ISP has to treat all the data they provide the same with no discrimination or variation in price based on user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. Telcos historically fought against this concept in hope to sell "internet fast lanes" to companies that pay for it, basically giving said companies an edge over the competition that can't afford the service. In Europe, this kind of "premium service" is allowed only in critical contexts like medical tech or, hypothetically, self-driving cars. It is not allowed on consumer-grade services, though.
Current EU Telecom rules are going to be reviewed this autumn. 5G network is a pretty important technology that may pave the way, according to the 5G Manifesto, to the transition towards smart cities and even allow for new technologies like VR on the go and self-driving cars to become a reality. EU really wants to be the forefront of this new technology and may be willing to ease the regulations around Net Neutrality to make it possible.
The European Commission opened a public consultation to gather feedback about 5G and the strategies around it which will be open for few more hours only.