Germany sees 'great interest' in private 5G networks

Germany's telecoms regulator has awarded 88 licences for private 5G networks in the past 12 months and expects many more applications to come.

Mary Lennighan

November 24, 2020

3 Min Read
German flag woman happy at Berlin Brandenburg Gate

Germany’s telecoms regulator has awarded 88 licences for private 5G networks in the past 12 months and expects many more applications to come.

The Bundesnetzagentur, or BNetzA, announced that a year after opening applications for 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz spectrum for campus 5G networks it has received a total of 93 submissions resulting in the granting of frequencies in 88 cases thus far.

“With the frequencies for local 5G networks, we create room for innovation,” said BNetzA president Jochen Homann. “We are registering great interest in the frequencies and are still counting on numerous applications,” he said.

The state has good reason to crow about the level of interest being shown in private 5G networks. Its decision to set aside spectrum in the 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz band for that purpose ahead of last year’s 5G auction was one of the key reasons for the serious discontent expressed by Germany’s telecoms operators with regard to the auction rules. The reduced amount of spectrum available at the auction meant greater competition and a higher spend for the telcos, all of whom repeatedly and vocally complained about the sale. The lack of spectrum, coupled with onerous coverage requirements and other obligations, particularly on the existing players, drew legal challenges from Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica.

Ultimately though, the telcos participated in the sale, as we knew they would, and spent hefty sums in the process. The sale drew to a close in June last year and raised €6.5 billion.

Deutsche Telekom has repeatedly criticised the cost of 5G spectrum and the impact operators’ heavy spending will have on network rollout. “With the auction proceeds one could have built approximately 50,000 new mobile sites and close many white spots,” Dirk Wössner, Member of the Board of Management of Telekom Deutschland, said on completion of the auction.

Thus BNetzA is understandably keen to big up the popularity and the benefits of private 5G networks. It repeated its previous comments about the spectrum being used in particular for industry 4.0 applications, as well as agriculture and forestry.

There have been a handful of high-profile applicants for spectrum in the 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz band. NTT Data is one such company that features on the BNetzA’s list and this summer the firm announced a new partnership with Mavenir to develop a portfolio of solutions for private 5G and 4G networks.

Lufthansa Technik, part of the Lufthansa airline group, also hit headlines earlier this year through a partnership with Vodafone to roll out a private 5G network at its Hamburg base, the twist being that it – not Vodafone – owns the 3.7 GHz-3.8 GHz spectrum the network is based on. However, the company does not appear on the regulator’s list of licensees, in its own name, anyway.

Others on the list (which can be found here) include tech firms, car makers, research and educational facilities, and the Deutsche Messe exhibition site in Hannover, amongst others.

The list is only going to get longer.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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