A lack of practical skills among university graduates could hinder the European Union's aim to lead the world in development of 5G mobile networks, according to Huawei.

5G is expected to provide vastly increased mobile data rates and support wireless connections between billions of devices as part of the Internet of Things. In order to meet an industry-wide target of a commercial rollout in 2020, skilled workers are required to develop the various technologies necessary for the next generation of mobile broadband, such as new ways to manage spectrum capacity and the introduction of virtualised infrastructure underpinning services.

Antonio Salvatore Graziano, Huaweis VP European public affairs and communications in Belgium, warned that many university graduates lack relevant practical skills to fill jobs as the EU aims to position itself at the forefront of 5G development.

"There are lots of graduates, without a doubt, but we are looking for the graduates that have the right skills so that they can contribute to the work that we are doing, and that is lacking," said Graziano, speaking to ComputerworldUK at Huawei's 5G Summit in Munich, Germany.

"From the time when a person graduated to a time when they can make an actual contribution to a company, this is the bit that is missing, and unfortunately the universities are not providing that.

"They are are providing the classical academic background but to some extent are lacking that bit to allow them to enter the work markets. If it is not properly addressed it could hinder the development of 5G in Europe."

The European Commission last year launched a public-private partnership that will see the EU invest £374 million in 5G technologies as part of its Horizon 2020 programme. However the EU faces competition from other regions, with South Korea also earmarking £900 million on developing next generation networks, which it claims will enable high definition films to be downloaded in a second.

Shenzen-based networking company Huawei is one of the firms developing 5G standards in Europe, supporting 14 R&D sites in eight countries across the continent. It also helped set up the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) in the UK at Surrey University, along with others such as BT and Samsung, and has pledged to invest£373 million in years for researching the next generation mobile networks in coming years.

According to Dr Wen Tong, Huawei vice president and CTO of Wireless of Huawei Technologies, the development of 5G has huge potential for job creation in the EU.

Unlike previous 3G and 4G generations of mobile broadband, job creation for 5G will not be limited to telecoms firms, he said, with the machine-to-machine communication applications creating demand in a variety of other industries.

"Wireless technology today creates jobs inside of telecoms companies, but in the next five to 10 years it will be much wider impact compared to the previous generation," said Tong.

"For example the GSM is limited to telecommunications and just delivered a voice service, but 5G is not a telecom technology only. It will impact many many other things, so investment in 5G is one aspect to create the job opportunity and skills but it is much more broader.

"For example 5G will be getting towards machine to machine usage. It will go through different vertical segments, into the car, into the hydropower grid, into agriculture. 5G will be a very dominant technology to transform those industries."

The global telecommunications industry, valued at £1.28 trillion per annum, is already responsible for six percent of world GDP, and mobile communications data traffic is expected to increase 1,000 fold by 2020. The ICT sector in Europe currently supports around seven million jobs.

UK universities minister David Willetts has previously claimed that the UK should should be competing to be at the forefront of 5G development, having missed out on 3G and 4G.

"We were world leaders in second generation mobile telephony, and we did great stuff in the 1980s and we set standards in mobile telephony. We went off the pace for 3G and 4G, and we are very keen to be once more world leaders in 5G," he said last year.

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