13 Feb 5G: which deployment requirements in Europe?
From 2018 to 2020, European states are allocating and re-allocating radio spectrum to mobile operators that are necessary to deploy 5G. Originally, radio spectrum was allocated to operators for a given technology. Now, operators are free to use it with the technology of their choice. This spectrum is allocated under an auction procedure, with a commitment to respect the specifications for deployment and possibly to share the use of this spectrum with other operators.
Most newspapers make their titles on the auction amount. We will not focus here on this question but only on the deployment requirements that three European governments have attached to their most recent spectrum allocation to operators.
In Italy, individual bandwidth and coverage requirements are modest, but early: “Within 36 months of the nominal availability of spectrum, each bidder in the 700 MHz FDD band is required to start commercial service, as defined in art. 11 (2), useful for meeting the standard operating requirements required to enable at least 80% of the national population to use 5G services correctly and in a reasonable manner in the internal environment, so as to ensure the development of applications for all expected usage scenarios mMTC [massive Machine Type Communication], URLLC [ultra-reliable Machine Type Communication], eMBB [enhanced Multimedia BroadBand], however guaranteeing in the latter case a nominal download speed of not less than 30 Mbps. The coverage must in any case cover all municipalities with more than 30,000 inhabitants and all provincial capitals. ” This individual deployment requirement is completed by a collective requirement of 99,4% of the population to be covered through co-deployment agreements between operators.
This coverage requirement of population is completed by a coverage requirement of motorways, national roads and high-speed railway lines: “Within 42 months of the nominal availability of spectrum, the tenderers of the 700 MHz FDD spectrum lots in a collective manner, through mutual agreements in compliance with the competition rules, are required to cover all the main national road and rail transport routes. to be intended respectively as the motorways, defined according to the classification of the Highway Code, and the high-speed railway lines, as defined in Legislative Decree 8 October 2010, n. 191, including the railway stations connected to them, as well as the national road and railway lines that are part of the corridors identified at Community level, according to the provisions of Regulation (EU) no. 1316/2013.”
In Switzerland, the guaranteed rate for each user is not even specified, the time and percentage of the population to be covered is even less demanding: “The concessions guarantee that the allocated spectrum are used to provide mobile telecommunication services. In addition, they define conditions for serving the population in mobile radiocommunication services:
- If the licensed rights of use relate to 700 MHz FDD spectrum (Category A), the licensee is required to serve at least 50% of the population of Switzerland in mobile communication services by 31 December 2024 at the latest using its own infrastructure.
- If the rights of use granted do not concern 700 MHz FDD spectrum, the concessionaire must serve, by 31 December 2024, at least 25% of the population of Switzerland with mobile communication services by means of its own infrastructure. “
Infrastructure sharing between operators is limited to non-urban sites: “When setting up and operating the sites of its transmitters, the concessionaire makes every effort to allow the co-use of these sites for other purposes which require a location outside the building area. If the location is outside the building zones, the concessionaire is also required to use the locations, buildings or facilities operated by other dealers, provided that they have sufficient capacity.”
For the Swiss authorities, competition and not government decree will ultimately determine the coverage level: “At the end of the process, competition between operators will ensure as wide as possible a coverage of the population, beyond minimal requirements, as it is already the case today”.
Deutschland über alles?
In Germany, on the other hand, the requirements came out of the last regulatory consultation last autumn: “The following deployment requirements are defined with the appropriate quality parameters:
- at least 98% of households per Land by at least 100 Mbps by the end of 2022,
- by the end of 2022, all federal highways with a latency of at least 100 Mbps and no more than 10 milliseconds (ms),
- by the end of 2022, federal highways with connection feature levels of zero or one with at least 100 Mbps and not more than 10 milliseconds in latency,
- by the end of 2024, all other federal highways with latency of at least 100 Mbps and no more than 10 ms,
- by the end of 2024, all regional and public roads of at least 50 Mbps,
- by the end of 2024, the seaports and the core network of inland waterways with at least 50 Mbps,
- by the end of 2022, railways with more than 2,000 passengers per day with at least 100 Mbps,
- serve all other railways at least 50 Mbps by the end of 2024, and by the end of 2022
- 1,000 “5G base stations” and
- Commission 500 base stations with at least 100 Mbps in “white areas”.”
These stringent deployment requirements can somewhat be mitigated through joint deployments and roaming agreements: “Infrastructure sharing and roaming can contribute to better mobile phone coverage. Spectrum allocation holders can enter into cooperative agreements for joint economic network expansion (so-called “burden sharing”) in compliance with competition and antitrust law. From the point of view of the Presidential Chamber [of BNetzA], it is pertinent to use infrastructure sharing for cost-effective grid expansion in order to improve rural supply in the areas where there has been no grid expansion and would not occur in the foreseeable future. Roaming can also contribute to better surface coverage. Network operators are also subject to a negotiation requirement.”
The press from Germany says that the general feeling is that these deployment objectives are too ambitious to be achieved and can only be achieved by mobilizing all the allocated spectrum, in particular the 4G spectrum allocated in 2015. However, the two main operators (Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone) would accept the conditions, even to put the regulator in front of the “unfulfilled commitment” when the time comes. The third operator, Telefonica O2, however, filed a complaint with the Administrative Court of Cologne to try and block the procedure of spectrum auctioning. Vodafone, which has already bought part of the German cable (Kabel Deutschland, in 2014) and asked in 2018 for authorization to buy a larger share (Liberty Global’s Unitymedia) and of course Deutsche Telekom have in any case a fixed network that can be used for transit to the radio segment, which is much less the case for Telefonica O2.
Another feature of the German approach is that seven out of ten requirements are for 5G mobile coverage: motorways, roads, railways, inland waterways will benefit from 5G, with the same speeds as at home (100 Mbps) and with a latency of 10 milliseconds. This is an industrial policy of the 5G for transport so far unparalleled in Europe.
What about France? What to expect from French requirements? From white area programs to the “mobile new deal”, French operators are used to the fact that the political requirements for deployment are revisited without waiting for the end of spectrum allocation periods. Government and local governments can be counted on to continue putting pressure on 5G deployments, as has been the case with 3G and 4G deployments. However, it is not yet known what the level of requirement for deployment on the transport axes will be. The French road network is much denser than the German network, but this would not be enough to justify a lack of interest in 5G mobility. To hear the President of ARCEP, Sebastien Soriano: “In Germany, Siemens and BMW are besieging our counterpart to quickly have the 5G spectrum for connected vehicles and factories, for the smart city. We will say that I do not really have Alstom and Renault as full-time residents of the ARCEP lobby. However, we are not prejudiced. Up to them to mobilize during the public consultation“. Would the French transport industry miss out on the 5G opportunity that is being crafted in Germany?