5G regulation and law in Germany

1. What is the state of 5G deployment in your country?

In July 2019, Vodafone was the first provider to launch its 5G network. At that time 60 5G antennas were transmitting in more than 20 cities and communities including Cologne, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Dortmund and Munich. In November 2020, Vodafone announced that it was operating some 3,000 5G antennas serving 10 million people, rising to 15 million by the end of the year.

Deutsche Telekom initially offered 5G to large cities including Leipzig, Bonn, Berlin, Darmstadt, Hamburg and Munich. By November 2020, it operated more than 30,000 5G antennas, serving more than 40 million.
On 3 October 2020, Telefónica launched 5G in the largest cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt.

2. Are telecoms companies monetising 5G investments - or are the services provided to consumers at similar prices to 4G? 

The current prices for consumer 5G services are slightly higher than those for 4G services.

3. Has 5G been launched for industrial purposes? For which sectors?

Yes. As of 13 November 2020, the government had granted local 5G frequencies to more than 50 companies such as Accenture, Airbus Defence and Space, Audi, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Corning Services, Deutsche Messe, Evonik Industries, Fraunhofer Institute, Huawei Technologies Duesseldorf, Media Broadcast, Mercedes-Benz, NTT DATA Deutschland and Rohde & Schwarz.

4. What is being done to ensure that a wide range of operators and industrial companies, from small to large, have access to frequencies?

The Federal Network Agency has already allocated frequencies in the 3.7 to 3.8 GHz range for local 5G purposes upon request. More than 50 companies have been granted local 5G frequencies, allowing them to operate their own local networks. However, there is no obligation for nationwide frequency holders to enter into a national roaming agreement with local 5G network operators. 

Currently, the Federal Network Agency is drafting criteria for allocating frequencies in the 26 GHz range for local 5G purposes upon request.

5. What public tenders have awarded spectrum licences? 

The 5G spectrum auction (2 GHz and 3.6 GHz) started on 19 March 2019 and ended on 12 June 2019 after 52 days and 497 rounds of bidding. The bidders must pay in total more than EUR 6.5bn for a combined 420 MHz of spectrum. The spectrum has been allocated for the period ended 31 December 2040.

5.1 What were the criteria for awarding each of the tenders?

According to the final award conditions and auction rules for the 5G spectrum auction in 2019:

  • Eligibility to participate was not restricted.
  • Each company can only be admitted once, including those participating as part of a consortium.
  • Applicants may claim an individual minimum requirement for frequencies in accordance with their respective business model in the licence application (so-called essential minimum equipment). If an essential minimum requirement is claimed and the frequency requirement is undercut during the auction by a bidder actively bidding, the bidder will be excluded from the entire auction procedure. If an essential minimum configuration is claimed, it must be described accordingly in the frequency usage plan.
  • In the notice of admission, the Federal Network Agency specifies the respective bidding rights as well as the essential minimum equipment granted. This specification of the essential minimum equipment is binding for the auction.
  • Every applicant must 
    • demonstrate reliability, expertise and performance to operate a public telecommunications network.
    • describe in a frequency usage concept how it intends to ensure efficient and interference-free frequency usage, especially how it will fulfill coverage obligations.

5.2 What are the conditions of the spectrum licence? 

On 26 November 2018, BNetzA announced the final award conditions and auction rules for the 5G spectrum auction. The term is 20 years.
The spectrum allocations are combined with several coverage obligations regarding households, federal highways, national roads, waterways and railways:

Coverage of Population and Minimum Quantity of Base Stations:

  • By the end of 2022
    • Coverage of population: at least 98% of households in each federal state must have at least 100 Mbit/s (downlink per antenna sector); the newcomer Drillisch Netz must fulfill different coverage obligations: at least 25% of households by the end of 2023, and at least 50% of households by the end of 2025.
    • Minimum quantity of base stations:
      • 1,000 5G base stations and 
      • 500 base stations with at least 100 Mbit/s in "white spots" to be put into operation. 

Coverage requirements for transport routes:

  • Coverage of other mobile network operators will be taken into account.
  • By the end of 2022:
    • all federal motorways (approximately 18,000 km) with a minimum speed of 100 Mbit/s and a maximum speed of 10 milliseconds (ms) latency,
    • the federal roads (with specific connecting functions; (approximately 5,350 km) with at least 100 Mbit/s and at most 10 ms latency, and
    • railways with more than 2,000 passengers per day (approximately 21,000 km) with a minimum of 100 Mbit/s.
  • By the end of 2024:
    • all other federal highways (approximately 32,700 km) with a minimum speed of 100 Mbit/s and a maximum speed of 10 ms latency,
    • all national and state roads (approximately. 80,000 km) with at least 50 Mbit/s,
    • the seaports and the core inland waterway network (approximately 4,500 km) with at least 50 Mbit/s and
    • all other railways (approximately 20,000 km) with at least 50 Mbit/s.

Details can be found in the following link.

The rules for local 5G spectrum were published on 21 November 2019. 

Most of the requirements above (such as 10 ms latency and 100 Mbit/s) can nowadays only be reached with 5G, but the regulation does not specifically require 5G technology; whereas the obligation to have 1,000 5G base stations specifically address 5G technology.

Currently, the Federal Network Agency is drafting the criteria for allocating frequencies in the 26 GHz range for local 5G purposes upon request.

5.3 What is the price and how is it calculated?

6. Is there a long-term spectrum plan or announcements for future tenders? 

On 19 August 2020 the Federal Network Agency published the draft Frequency Compass 2020. The Federal Network Agency makes first considerations on the future availability of frequencies for mobile communications. The background is that frequency usage rights in the 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2.6 GHz ranges relevant to mobile communications will expire on 31 December 2025. The draft Frequency Compass 2020 also gives an overview about international frequency issues, possible future spectrum and includes different fields of action to be discussed by the interested parties.

7. If 5G specific rules are drafted, what do they say?

Besides the award rules for nationwide 5G spectrum published on 26 November 2018 and the rules for local 5G frequencies, no 5G-specific rules have been drafted.

8. What focused 5G network or spectrum sharing regulation exists?

At the moment, there is not 5G-focused regulation on network sharing and spectrum sharing. 

9. Are 5G network sharing or spectrum sharing agreements in place? 

No, there are no network sharing or spectrum sharing agreements in place.

10. What are or will be the rules for granting competitors access to new 5G networks once they are deployed?

Pursuant to the award rules for nationwide 5G spectrum, 5G mobile network operators must negotiate among themselves about the shared use of existing nationwide networks.

The award rules for nationwide 5G spectrum do not contain a so-called service provider obligation. That means that 5G mobile network operators are not obliged to conclude access agreements with service providers unless ordered to do so by the Federal Network Agency.

11. What comments have been made regarding 5G cyber-security and possible use of Chinese technology, including regulation?

On 11 August 2020 the Federal Network Agency published the current draft of the catalogue of security requirements for operating telecommunications and data processing systems and for processing personal data. The catalogue has been drawn up in agreement with the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (BfDI). 
The catalogue of security requirements applies for the operators of telecommunications networks and data processing systems and for the processing of personal data. It is the foundation for the security concept, technical arrangements, and other measures to increase network and services  security.

The catalogue specifically provides for:

  • critical components to be certified;
  • declarations of trustworthiness to be obtained from manufacturers and system suppliers;
  • product integrity to be ensured;
  • security monitoring to be introduced;
  • only trained and qualified personnel to be employed in security-related areas;
  • sufficient redundancy to be available; and
  • the avoidance of monocultures. 

The catalogue contains additional security requirements for public telecommunications networks and services with a high level of risk. In this connection a list of critical functions is to be created for infrastructures with a high level of risk. These critical functions will be listed in a document jointly drawn up with the BSI.

In the future, the list of critical functions is to be continually updated and amended. Results of international analyses, for example from the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) or the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), were and are taken into account.

The following functions are considered as critical:

  • subscriber management and cryptographic mechanisms (if a network component);
  • cross network interfaces;
  • managed network services;
  • Network Functions Virtualisation Management and Network Orchestration (MANO), as well as virtualisation;
  • management systems and other support systems;
  • transport and information-flow control;
  •  lawful interception.

(see https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/EN/2020/20200811_securitiycatalo.html?nn=404530)

Portrait of Jens Neitzel
Dr. Jens Neitzel