German operators will have no rural obligation for 5G

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German mobile operators will not be required to cover the entire of the country with 5G connectivity according to leaked documents detailing the proposed auction of spectrum next year.

Communications regulator (BNetzA) plans to auction 2GHz and 3.6GHZ airwaves in early 2019, with the ‘big three’ of Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica all set to participate.

Reuters says the proposed terms state that at least 98 per cent of the German population must be able to access 100Mbps by 2022, while at least 50Mbps must be available on busy rail lines.

German 5G auction

However, there is no sign of the radical measures suggested by Germany’s main competition administrator to stimulate investment.

Andreas Mundt from the Cartel Office has concerns that market concentration means the major mobile operators have less incentive to invest in revolutionary new mobile technologies. He called for a fourth mobile operator to enter the auction and terms that obliged incumbents to open up their infrastructure to Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO).

Any such provisions would be opposed by the big three. They argue that if they were forced to spend more money on spectrum, they would have less capital to invest in infrastructure and Germany would fall even further behind in the race to 5G.

They also claim that proposals to open up their networks would allow MVNOs to benefit from their investments without undertaking the same financial burdens, putting incumbents at a further disadvantage.

The UK has already held its first 5G spectrum auction and it is expected the first commercial services will go live in 2019 or 2020. The next major sale of airwaves will be in the 700MHz band, with regulators seeing at as a ‘unique’ opportunity to deliver 5G to rural areas.