Almost a year after signing a memorandum of understanding on the project, Telefónica Germany and Nokia said they have completed the construction of their so-called “5G Innovation Cluster” in Berlin, and are now gearing up to start testing the “performance and coverage” of 5G services in a dense urban area.
According to the German carrier, the “cluster” consists of five sites and will be used to test Nokia’s 5G technology “under real life conditions” and trial services with Telefónica Germany subscribers. The carrier specifically cited its interest in testing 5G use cases for the industrial sector under the Industry 4.0 banner, as well as use cases for enhanced massive broadband (eMBB). They plan to use five-carrier aggregation for download and two-carrier aggregation for upload to achieve high throughput rates.
The carrier and vendor also plan to test what they described as enhanced microwave technology as a backhaul option for dense 4.5G, 4.9G and 5G networks, linking small cells to fiber access points.
Telefónica Germany, as well as its local rivals Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Germany, look to be targeting 2020 for the commercial launch of 5G networks. GSMA Intelligence recently released a report that European operators would lag behind those in North America and Asia in their 5G deployments. Indeed, commercial 5G announcements have already been made in South Korea, as well as by Verizon and AT&T in the U.S.
Telefónica, which is also working with other network vendors including Huawei and Samsung on 5G developments in Germany, has already started to equip more of its mobile sites with fiber links and has forged agreements with network operators including Deutsche Telekom (at least 5,000 sites) and Vodafone Germany (joint fiber connections), as well as alternative providers NGN Fiber Network and GasLINE (at least 1,500 sites apiece).
Deutsche Telekom, meanwhile, has said it will launch commercial 5G operations in Germany in 2020, as long as enough commercial devices are available, while Vodafone Germany also states on its web site that it wants to launch 5G services in 2020.
The telecom regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) recently announced plans to start the auction of 5G spectrum licenses in early 2019, when it aims to allocate spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands as well as some frequencies in the 3.7-3.8 GHz and 26 GHz bands. All three operators are expected to take part in the auction, although they have been extremely vocal in expressing their reservations over the design and possible cost of the 5G auctions.
The GSMA also raised concerns that the proposed terms of the upcoming 5G spectrum “contain unreasonable and unrealistic license conditions” that it said pose a “substantial risk” to the roll out of 5G networks across the country.
In particular, it points to the coverage obligations for the 3.6 GHz band, including population coverage of 98 percent with 100 Mb/s and 10ms latency, noting that this frequency is not well suited to wide area coverage. It also said roaming and wholesale obligations attached to the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz band could deter investment in 5G networks and complained that there are “massive advantages for newcomers” contained in the rules, such as significantly lower coverage requirements and the right to invoke a negotiation requirement for national roaming.