With Connected Germany once again taking place this week, albeit virtually, senior telecom executives from across Germany will gather to discuss Germany’s digital future. Topics include "Building next generation fibre networks across Germany", "Optimising the regulatory framework for broadband rollout" and "What’s next for 5G: strategy, technology & regulation" amongst others. 

With 5G still a "hot topic", Total Telecom caught up with Ingobert Veith, director of public policy, Huawei Germany to get the latest developments on all things 5G in Germany. 

At the start of 2020, many were positioning 2020 to be the ‘Year of 5G’. On a global level, where are we currently when it comes to 5G?

First, let me share a short status update on 5G expansion worldwide. Last week’s GSA figures show that 5G is faster than any of its predecessor technologies. We currently have 122 commercially used networks in 49 countries – certainly variation in scale but with a strong overall momentum. The 5G infrastructure ecosystem is ready and solutions from many vendors do exist. There is no doubt that improving network coverage and raising capacity will require further efforts. This will become a marathon rather than a sprint despite the race we are currently witnessing.

More specifically, what is Germany’s current status when it comes to 5G?

Germany has taken important first steps towards 5G. The mobile network operators (MNO) have quickly delivered first supply to the population with a relatively wide coverage. Currently focus has been on upgrading existing base stations to 5G and using existing frequency bands. Dynamic Spectrum Sharing technology (DSS) is being used here, which allows for a smart transformation from 4G to 5G depending on the number of users. In Germany, all three MNOs are offering 5G services. The first benchmarks show improvements in the “user experience” – especially regarding latency. However, maximizing speeds and the capacity gain compared to 4G is still rather modest, as the used spectrum remains the same – and spectrum is still the essential precondition for speed as well as capacity.

What is your personal assessment of Germany’s current state of deployment, especially when compared to other regions around the world?

The current steps taken by operators and regulators in Germany were correct and important to set in motion the changing dynamic. However, if you look around, say South Korea or China, we see a significantly higher market penetration with “real”, more capable 5G installations, mainly in the so called C-Band, which raises the full potential of 5G. Technically speaking, one could say that Germany should push for a real “High Capacity 5G” deployment in the recently auctioned C-band range of 3.5 GHz.

Germany clearly has much room still for growth in terms of 5G, but how can this be achieved from a technical standpoint?

Germany certainly has a different set of infrastructure preconditions than the above mentioned comparative regions. So we have a clear principle of market-driven expansion – discussed funding for 5.000 white spots we may neglect here. If you include fixed networks, Germany has a great variety of operators, i.e. not only the 3 big players but also innovative regional carriers. We should take full advantage of this technological environment and create synergy instead of considering 5G expansion as a completely isolated process. From an infrastructure point of view, for starters, we could consider doing the following in order to scale up:

1. Fully integrated prefabricated mast solutions could help for rural coverage and along important transportation routes. In this way, conventional rather large masts with several tons of weight, which allow the operation of different frequencies by several operators, can be much more efficiently realized

2. In settlement and industrial areas, in turn, individual distributed 5G antennas with a more aggregated emission characteristic are available as a new type of site. Due to their weight of well under 100 kilograms and their small size, these could be assembled on municipal infrastructures, such as roofs, in a comparatively simple way. Construction and commissioning of these new plants is considerably less costly than the conversion of existing stations

3. Looking at synergies, fixed-wireless approaches in the C-Band but also within the mmWave spectrum could be applied. This would make general mobile infrastructures also available for unpenetrated home applications. In other words, 5G pols would not only serve for the mobile but also for the stationary use cases helping in regions with challenging business cases

4. In this context, intensified cooperation between the market players would certainly help to realize sustainable synergy and efficiency potential

What benefits does 5G have for Germany and what sectors do you think will profit the most from the new technology?

I think it is clearly going to be the business sector. The high expectations of 5G are largely in the field of vertical market applications. To underline this, here are two important figures: By 2026, GSMA expects 60% of the new 5G usage to come from the B2B sector. Furthermore, 80% of all connections come from applications in vertical markets – of course including high numbers of IoT connections. In the various market segments, 5G services are expected ranging from Quality of Service-based services or exclusive network slice provisioning in operator networks up to wide private networks – especially for the industrial manufacturing sector. But in this context, I would like to refer to existing devices forecasts of $48 billion within an expected global total 5G market volume of about $160 billion in 2026. What’s behind this? In the scope of this device sector, we are talking about machines equipped with 5G connectivity, tools, and a wide range of equipment of all kinds. Matching this with Germany’s economic structure, I see a great opportunity for the German industry – especially for the SMEs to position themselves here. Using this opportunity now Germany could even gain a 5G market leadership.
There appears to be huge potential for private 5G campus networks in Germany. How developed are these deployments in Germany and what do you think their future holds?
There are very promising trials and pilots. Looking at Germany’s unique strength in the vertical industry, we certainly agree on the high potential as mentioned before. However, I have to note here that we are still in a trail status. One reason for this, is certainly the challenge for operators to gain a sufficient value add. Our experience with projects shows that no project is the same as the other. This requires adaptability and integration skills, which are not in line with the current process structure of network operators, which is characterized by mass market, uniformity and high-level automation. The expansion of one’s own shares of value also requires the building of a much wider range of competences. Cooperation will be of great importance, since no one can do it entirely alone – a healthy and rich Eco-System is key. But this requires multi-dimensional business models, in which each player is fairly rewarded for his efforts. For this, we certainly still need a way to come
You can hear more from Huawei at Connected Germany (17-18th November) where Walter Haas, CTO/CSO, Huawei Technologies Deutschland will be speaking on the day 2 keynote panel "What’s next for 5G: strategy, technology & regulation". Michael Lemke, Senior Technology Principal (ICT), Huawei Technologies Deutschland will also speak on a day 2 panel "5G in Germany: Building next generation mobile networks".