Germany’s plans for minimum 5G coverage attacked by GSMA

The German government is the latest to set out rules for midrange, C-band 5G spectrum, saying it will make the whole band from 3.4 GHz to 3.8 GHz available for the technology.

This was welcomed by the GSMA and by operators because it will allow large bandwidths, able to support high speeds without the need for complex carrier aggregations.

“The C-Band is the most vital frequency band for 5G,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA. “Germany is demonstrating 5G leadership in the timely release of this vital spectrum.”

However, he issued a caveat, related to Germany’s decision to impose coverage obligations in 3.6 GHz (as it did, at the start of 4G, in 800 MHz), Granryd said the country “risks undercutting its 5G future with unnecessary obligations. Spectrum is a limited resource and it must be used and managed as efficiently as possible to ensure a 5G future that will benefit all.”

In its draft of conditions for the upcoming auction, the regulator – the Bundesnetzagentur – also included rules on national roaming to improve coverage. The agency’s president, Jochen Homann, said politicians, operators, would-be new entrants and industry groups have all responded to the original draft terms, published in August, and the new list reflect their inputs.

If adopted in full, the policy would require operators to support minimum data rates of 100Mbps by the end of 2022 in 98% of households in each state; all federal highways; all “main roads”; and along the major railway routes.

Each existing operator must also install at least 1,000 5G base stations and 500 other base stations in defined areas in the same time period.

By the end of 2024 coverage would be extended to seaports, main waterways and all other road and rail routes, though in some cases, data rates could be lower. Coverage across motorways and other major roads would also be subject to strict latency requirements.

The detailed coverage rules will not apply to new entrants.

There is less detail on the idea of national roaming, though the idea has been attacked by the MNOs, especially Deutsche Telekom, as similar proposals have been in the UK, Australia and other markets.

The document talked of an “expectation” that operators would cooperate on roaming in underserved areas, rather than suggesting this would be compulsory. In cases of roaming negotiations, Bundesnetzagentur would act as a “referee” in such discussions.

In its statement, the regulator said its rules would lead to improved supply in rural areas but promote the rapid introduction of 5G with high data rates and low latency. It added: “Proportionality is maintained by taking into account cooperation and crediting options and significantly lowering the minimum bids.”

The draft now goes to an advisory council for discussion at its meeting on November 26. The auction is scheduled for next year.