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5G and the economy

Where Germany stands in terms of 5G network expansion

In the competition between industrialised nations, the availability and quality of the 5G network is a vital issue for Germany. But how far have our companies and infrastructure progressed? Let’s compare.

Autonomous driving, modern traffic management systems, artificial intelligence (AI): these modern technologies are essential factors when it comes to boosting the competitiveness of German industry. 

A strong start by the USA  

In many respects, the USA has been leading the way in digital innovation. In April 2019 Verizon began rolling out the first end customer network in Chicago and Minneapolis. By the end of that year, T-Mobile US announced that it was offering nationwide coverage with the new mobile telecommunications standard. However, these providers proved unable to guarantee the transmission speeds users had been promised. 

Promising progress in South Korea  

In Asia, mobile network operators in a number of countries began developing their 5G mobile infrastructure at an early stage. Operators in South Korea used the 2018 Winter Olympics as one framework for the start of their initial trial runs of the new 5G technology. Then, in April 2019 this nation of over 50 million people even beat the American provider Verizon – albeit only by a matter of hours – with the launch of the world’s first end customer network. Yet as with its American counterparts, the network offered by mobile network operator SK telecom did not initially deliver the promised transmission speeds. This shortfall has since been remedied: the South Korean provider is now offering better results. 

Japan focuses on nationwide development 

In Japan too, the government and network operators made an early start with their concept for developing 5G networks. The government designated such development a priority task on the assumption that this technology would bring about significant changes in the economy and society. In 2019 the government resolved to invest in the relevant facilities. Japanese telecommunications group KDDI launched its 5G network in March 2020 covering 15 regional authorities across the country, with nationwide expansion of the network planned over the course of the year. The group aims to be operating a total of 20,000 mobile base stations by 2022. 

Record investment by China 

The People’s Republic of China is vigorously pursuing its plans for the national development of 5G networks. The China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) anticipates half a billion users by 2023. This is based on the announcement by three Chinese mobile providers – China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom – that by the end of 2020 around 550,000 mobile base stations with 5G technology will have been built in China.  

Scandinavia and Switzerland leading the way in Europe 

While somewhat behind the front runners in its development of the 5G network, Europe is seeing the pace gather here. Estonia and the Nordic countries got behind the new technology early on. Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland drew up a plan designed to make the Nordic territories of Europe one of the world’s most advanced regions for 5G. 

Construction of the UK’s 5G network is also proceeding swiftly. Here, 98 towns and cities already enjoy 5G, with more to follow [6]. And in Switzerland, telecoms group Swisscom declared at the end of 2019 that it was already supplying 90 per cent of all households with the new mobile telecommunications standard. 

Germany on course 

It is first and foremost intended for the industrial sector to benefit from the introduction of 5G. The new mobile telecommunications standard is expected to help modernise production processes with wireless broadband real-time communication. This is why in Germany frequencies for 5G have been allocated for precisely such applications. Many companies are already using 5G. The innovative approach pursued by Germany in this respect is now attracting attention in other countries. 

But the official decision-making process is also much preoccupied with delivering the new mobile technology to the population at large. With the sale by auction in June 2019 of the frequencies in the 3.6 GHz range, Germany’s Federal Network Agency gave the go-ahead for a new broadband frequency range for the expansion of 5G. Here, compared with other European countries, Germany can even be seen to be taking the lead in terms of 5G readiness – that is to say, in respect of the share of frequencies from the 5G pioneer bands that have already been assigned. 

Providers like Deutsche Telekom or Vodafone have already established a large number of 5G mobile base stations, as a result of which this technology is already available in a few initial cities in the country. Individual providers aim to be in a position to guarantee up to 99 percent of the population a connection to the 5G network by 2025. According to Deutsche Telekom, around 40 million people have benefited from the 5G network since July 2020. Furthermore, Germany has also played a pioneering role as regards networks for local 5G applications – so-called campus networks. This marks an important milestone for German industry in respect of the expansion of 5G. 

Digitalisation promotes progress 

An international comparison shows that Asia and the United States of America are pressing ahead with the expansion of 5G tremendously. In Germany, 5G expansion is running at full speed in order to preserve the country’s status as an attractive and modern location and not fall behind the opportunities offered by Silicon Valley or China. To achieve this, it remains necessary to deliver the enhanced possibilities of 5G networks quickly. This will ensure innovation and progress while contributing to the country’s prosperity and economic vitality. 

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