In this morning’s keynote session at Connected Germany, a range of expert speakers shared their views surrounding Germany’s 5G future
One of the things we have all seen this year is a huge increase in data consumption. While this is largely driven by the changes forced upon us by the coronavirus pandemic, the industry broadly agrees that 5G will see data demand skyrocket even further in the coming years.
The greatly increased capacity of 5G will unlock numerous new services, many of which have never been seen before. For Mallik Rao, CTIO at Telefonica Germany, speaking at this year’s Connected Germany, video-related services will be a key driver for 5G network innovation.
“The video traffic will continue to increase and, in the next three-to-five years when we begin to get the augmented and virtual reality applications, these will need to go closer to the edge, closer to the customer,” he said. “I think these types of new applications will bring on a significant change – for support, for services, for connected cars. These will really need edge compute capabilities.”
But delivering the additional capacity required to support these services will be no easy task. Part of the discussion that took place on the panel focussed on the concept of micro versus macro sites, particularly regarding the associated costs.
Due to their scale, microcell networks are expensive, with Hermann Rodler, CTO at M-net Telekommunikations, suggesting that they were still around seven-times more expensive to deploy than traditional macrocell networks. However, this is not the whole story, with microsites having some considerable cost-savings when it comes to acquiring permits.
“You have permitting costs of around €10,000 for a macro site – and you don’t even have approval yet!” said Rodler. “With a microcell below 10W you don’t need approval from the Bundesnetzagentur. So, if you remove the permitting costs, the microcell networks become commercially even with the macrocell networks.”
Furthermore, getting permission for a macro site is often a challenge, I part due to the proliferation of misinformation surrounding 5G.
“This is not a rational issue,” he said. “With rational people you could convince them in 10 minutes [that 5G antennas are not dangerous]. But this is an emotional issue, and you can’t address emotions with rationality. So, the only thing that helps is if people don’t see it – because what you don’t see doesn’t exist.”
“The activists are very smart,” he said with a wry smile. “They will ask you to prove that 5G is harmless and, of course you, cannot prove an absence of something. By using the rhetoric of ‘Show me the proof!’ they have won. It is a logical Catch-22. That’s why we will focus on microsites.”
Walter Haas, CTO/CSO at Huawei Technologies Deutschland concurred, arguing that densification would be the next key step in Germany’s 5G development.
“If we really want to achieve high capacity networks, then we need more stations – we cannot solve this with a macro network layer. We will need a densification of sites and these will definitely be smaller sites,” he said.
For now, operators in Germany have been focussing on population coverage using technologies like dynamic spectrum sharing, which is a great way to transition from 4G to 5G, but it is not providing the increased capacity of true 5G.
“We are proud of our population-based coverage based on DSS, but it is not enough,” he said. “The industry has created a huge expectation for 5G – people are expecting something like a Big Bang. The 10% increase in speed we see currently will not be the Big Bang.”
But beyond the scope of the traditional mobile customer, we are seeing a shift in focus towards industrial sectors. Indeed, the GSMA recently predicted that 60% of device usage will be from industry and we have seen numerous partnerships between operators and enterprises taking place throughout Europe seeking to capitalise on the generation of Industry 4.0.
Germany is particularly seeing boom in private campus 5G networks, with 74 spectrum licences allocated to enterprises by September this year. For Tobias Miethaner, Director General for "Digital Society", Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, this represents a clear regulatory focus on facilitating industrial 5G.
“The Federal Network Agency has made sure that the prices you have to pay as an enterprise to get frequencies and the licences to use them are really low,” he explained. “We are making public sites available for free in the white spots, as well as drafting standard contracts to make it easier to gain access to these sites.”
Germany’s 5G future is undoubtedly bright and most would agree that the country is on the right path to maximising the potential of 5G. However, it it wants to build itself up to a world-leading position, to rival the likes of China and South Korea, there is still much work to be done.
The full session entitled ‘What’s next for 5G – Strategy, Technology & Regulation’ is available to watch in full on demand for all Connected Germany attendees.
Connected Germany is taking place right now! Register here.
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