Nokia Networks is targeting a "big bang" commercial launch for 5G in 2020, with it aiming to launch a "full spec" network during the Euro 2020 football tournament.
The national football tournament is set to take place all over the continent, with the semi-finals and final held in London.
Vendors are scrambling to own the next generation technology, both in terms of regional bragging rights and for their own differentiation.
Last week, Nokia said it would have 5G-ready 10GBps cell sites available for deployment by 2017, the same year Huawei is targeting a launch of its own 5G network.
A number of collaborative trials between operators and vendors are under way, with Ericsson the key coordinator of the European Union's METIS-II project. Partners are trying to thrash out the details of the technology and standards of future 5G technology.
Writing on Nokia Networks' blog, Markus Borchert, the company's Senior Vice President, Market Europe, said the continent was facing a "wake-up call" if it was to beat the likes of Asia or North America to launching 5G first.
He said: "The message to Europe’s capitals was clear: we need to improve investment conditions now! Other markets are meanwhile making rapid gains, and seriously challenging Europe’s innovator position. Europe’s targets must therefore be ambitious, so that’s why Nokia proposes to make a big bang by having the first commercial full spec 5G roll-out in connection with the European football championship in 2020."
However, he warned operators should not abandon existing LTE plans in the race to 5G, arguing future networks would be harmed if 4G is neglected today.
He said: "This is a wake-up call for those areas without 4G coverage in Europe as they will be the 5G white spots of the future and many 5G use cases will not be possible without seamless geographic coverage."