The European Commission has just adopted the first work programme for the digital part of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF Digital), focusing on improvements to Europe's digital connectivity infrastructures for three years (2021-2023).
The Connecting Europe Facility encourages public and private investments and will contribute to connectivity projects of common EU interest and to the creation of safe, secure and sustainable high-performance infrastructures, such as gigabit and 5G networks across the EU. Improving Europe’s connectivity infrastructure will be key to achieving Europe’s digital transformation, as outlined in the ‘Path to the Digital Decade’, and to ensuring that all European households have access to gigabit connectivity and all inhabited areas have 5G coverage by 2030.
The Connecting Europe Facility funding programme will also strengthen connectivity networks by supporting new or upgraded backbone infrastructures in the EU and in connection with third countries. This is essential for the interconnection of digital capabilities such as cloud, data and computing, which are in line with the EU’s goal of maintaining digital sovereignty.
The key measures of ‘Connecting Europe’
CEF Digital is expected to support the following key actions:
- The deployment of 5G infrastructures in Europe, in particular 5G coverage along cross-border corridors and 5G for smart communities.
- The deployment of new or significant upgrade of existing backbone networks, including cloud federations, ultra-secure quantum communication infrastructures and submarine cables, to improve the performance of the electronic communications networks within and between Member States and between the Union and third countries.
- The implementation of digital connectivity infrastructures related to cross-border projects in the areas of transport or energy and/or supporting operational digital platforms directly associated to transport or energy infrastructures.
Europe’s Digital Decade
The first calls for the digital Connecting Europe Facility will be published in early January 2022. With a planned budget of up to €2 billion until 2027, the Connecting Europe Facility will underpin the digital transformation and the objectives of Europe’s Digital Decade in fixed and mobile connectivity.
It is part of the Connecting Europe Facility programme, which supports investment in trans-European digital, transport and energy networks, worth €33.7 billion from 2021 to 2027.
The first generation of the Connecting Europe Facility 2014-2020 improved the infrastructures that connect Member States and brought free Wi-Fi to local communities through the WiFi4EU programme. It also supported the deployment of very-high capacity networks in rural and semi-rural areas across Europe via the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF).