5G set to be a turbo charged catalyst in the digitalisation of the global economy. The construction of the 5G network in Germany must therefore pick up speed if Germany does not want to lag behind international development. A technical and regulatory challenge.
The political goal of 5G-radio coverage is ambitious. With regard to the dynamics in other regions, the question arises as to which strategy will significantly simplify and accelerate the expansion in Germany. Not only do existing transmission locations have to be converted to 5G, but at the same time new ones have to be put into operation in order to meet the supply requirements specified in the frequency auction of 2022 and 2024. In order to achieve this, new approaches are needed from both a technical and regulatory point of view.
Increasing focus on industrial estates and transport routes
The conversion of the existing large mobile phone locations – so-called macro locations – is just as demanding as the installation of new broadcasting stations. In addition to static requirements for weight or wind load and, most importantly, electromagnetic compatibility, the distribution of 5G sites must take into account the changed application profile of mobile networks. In addition to the individual mobile phone use, this refers to the commercial use of 5G as an important basis for the digitalization of the economy and society. In addition to cities and industrial estates, this also puts the spotlight on all transport routes that connect settlement and commercial areas in rural areas.
Successful 5G coverage of these areas is therefore an important factor for Germany's future viability. So far, however, according to statistics from the Federal Network Agency, there are only about 72,000 broadcasting locations for mobile communications in Germany. The international comparison immediately shows that this is not enough to guarantee the requirements for the digital future of Germany. For example, the special economic zone around Shenzhen, with its approximately 13 million inhabitants and less than one percent of the area of Germany, alone has 35,000 lte stations.
Significantly more new mobile phone locations needed
The existing sites, mostly built during the introduction of gsm in the early 1990s, have not experienced any substantial compaction since the launch of umts in 2004. Consolidation of sites is currently actually reducing the number of sites. In most cases, these existing locations with transmitting and receiving systems for the currently used technologies are (2G, 3G, 4G). Their expansion often meets structural and regulatory boundaries, especially in urban agglomerations, which can only be overcome by the development of new broadcasting locations. The intensive discussion about coverage gaps ("white spots") also shows another need to increase the number of transmission locations, especially in the countryside.
Building mobile phone locations currently means:
• identify new locations,
• agree with the owners,
• establish acceptance,
• provide planning for the structural adaptation,
• commission the relevant trades,
• obtain permits
• and finally manage the acceptances
At present, these steps often take up to 18 months per site to obtain the site certificate for commissioning – far too long to meet the outlined expansion targets.
A measure to increase the number of suitable sites and accelerate their development: include public real estate and use passive municipal infrastructure for new sites, as stated in the current mobile strategy of the bmvi. In particular, roofs of public buildings in populated areas and
Federal properties as locations for free-standing masts in rural areas.
Prefabricated solutions for large locations
According to Huawei, technical innovations can support the construction of the necessary new mobile phone locations. With a view to providing care in rural areas and along major transport routes, prefabricated, fully integrated mast solutions help. In this way, classic large-scale sites with a weight of several tons, which enable the operation of different frequencies from several operators, that can be realized efficiently. This, in turn, allows savings in the construction planning, the approval process, the construction and in the acceptance.
Powerful single antennas on roofs and small cells for commercial areas and agglomerations
In residential and commercial areas, a new type of location is provided by individual distributed 5G antennas with more concentrated radiation characteristics. These can be mounted on municipal infrastructures such as roofs relatively easily due to their weight of well under 100 kilograms and their small size. The construction and commissioning of these new plants is much less expensive compared to the conversion of existing installations. In addition, these new antennas result in a lower ambient load due to their directional characteristics.
As a third possible use, so-called small cells for mounting on street furniture such as lighting poles. Simplified regulatory approval conditions can make these small cell sites increasingly important for 5G supply in conurbations. All three technical variants for the realization of new locations will accelerate the 5G expansion in Germany and thus keep Germany competitive.
Dr. Michael Lemke, Huawei Technologies Deutschland Gmbh, Senior Technology Principal
Ingobert Veith, Huawei Technologies Deutschland Gmbh, Director Public Policy