European Commissioner Neelie Kroes on Monday called for help to push the 5G agenda in Europe as the body charged with R&D for the next generation of mobile technology was formally launched in Barcelona.

"[This is] the most important event of the whole conference," Kroes insisted, as she joined executives from Orange, Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent to mark the inauguration of the European Commission's 5G public-private partnership (PPP). It was not immediately clear how the event differed from the 5G PPP's other official launch in December though.

The EU has pledged funding of €700 million to further 5G research, a sum that has now been exceeded fivefold by private companies.

"I need your help to explain why we are so involved," Kroes told the assembled members of the press.

The 'why' is quite simple: the telecoms sector underpins a great many other industries, such as environmental, energy, e-health and automotive, Kroes explained. "You need a healthy telco sector or…they can't perform."

The Commission is also keen to see Europe at the forefront of technology once again, having lost ground to the U.S. and Asia in recent years.

"We have to go back in the driver's seat," Kroes said.

One way to make that happen is through a single European telecoms market, the commissioner believes.

With 28 EU member states, "the single market is there," Kroes said. "[But] the telco sector is not part of the single market."

There are 28 ring-fenced telecoms markets in the EU "It is old-fashioned. It is not effective at all," she insisted. "This has to be fixed."