This initiative falls within the broader phase two of CEF, spanning the period from 2021 to 2027, with the CEF Digital segment allocated a budget of €1.6 billion.
The CEF Digital program aims to support and stimulate investments in digital connectivity infrastructures of common European interest. Nearly half of the budget is designated for diverse projects in digital connectivity between 2021 and 2023, while almost a quarter is dedicated to enhancing 5G coverage along transport corridors over the same period.
While this funding call represents a fraction of the overall budget, the Commission’s approval is noteworthy, contingent on the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA) finalizing the agreements. The beneficiaries include telecom operators, infrastructure firms, transport companies, and public and research entities, with the 42 successful projects involving a total of 179 stakeholders from 18 countries.
The Commission emphasized that the funded projects would contribute to the deployment of secure, sustainable, and high-performance 5G and digital backbone infrastructure. The initiatives span a range of activities, from implementing 5G infrastructure for local communities and major European transport routes to deploying submarine cables within and to the EU.
Notably, cable systems and gateways secured the majority of the budget allocation. Infraestruturas de Portugal leads with a €40.5 million grant for the Atlantic CAM cable system connecting mainland Portugal with the Azores and Madeira. EllaLink secured €29.9 million for a submarine communication cable linking French Guiana to Europe, and McMahon Design and Management received €29.1 million for the Pisces Cable System connecting the Iberian Peninsula to the west coast of Ireland.
Other noteworthy grants involve €735,225 for the project “5G cross-border deployment study between Slovenia and Croatia on the Mediterranean corridor”, the holder of which is Telemach Slovenija d.o.o. in partnership with Telemach Hrvatska d.o.o., as well as €958,125 for “Enhancing public services of Ploce Port Authority via implementing 5G connectivity”, involving partners Port of Ploče Authority and Markoja d.o.o.
While the grant recipients are in the process of finalizing agreements with HaDEA, the third call for projects under phase two is already underway. Launched in late October, the third call will run until February 20, 2024, with HaDEA co-funding projects in areas such as 5G coverage along transport corridors, 5G and Edge Cloud for Smart Communities, and backbone connectivity for Digital Global Gateways, including submarine cables and satellite ground infrastructure. Given the timeline of previous calls, successful projects from the third call are expected to be announced around this time next year.