|Topic:||Innovative applications require high-performance infrastructure|
|Organisation:||Federal Network Agency|
for Electricity, Gas, Telecommunication
Matthias Kurth is President of the Bundesnetzagentur in Germany. Mr Kurth was appointed president of the Federal Network Agency in March 2001. The agency is the sector-specific competition authority for electricity, gas, telecommunications, postal and railway markets in Germany including frequency management and digital signature.
Mr Kurth joined the agency as Vice President in 2000. Previously he was a member of the management of Colt Telecom GmbH as Director Business Development, Law and Regulation. From 1994 to 1999 Mr Kurth worked as State Secretary in the Hesse Ministry of Economics, Transport, Technology and European Affairs. Mr Kurth was a member of the Hesse Land Parliament from 1978 to 1994 and worked as a lawyer.
In addition to ubiquitous broadband connectivity, keen but fair competition in the mobile sector is another key condition for the utilisation of the cloud. The more mobile network operators are competing in a market, the bigger the consumer benefit will be. A brisk market leads to decreasing prices, stimulates investments and fosters innovation. Spectrum holdings are crucial for the competitiveness of mobile operators and least restrictive conditions are pivotal for efficient investments and for an accelerated time-to-market for innovative technologies and services.
ICT has driven half of the productivity growth in Europe over the past 15 years. In comparison with other major European economies, Germany is the current leader in broadband use. Among the G7 states, it is now in second place.
Information technology will drive innovation and have an impact on all key industries and change many sectors significantly. The penetration of ICT into all areas of business and private life is increasingly shaping the information society. Access to information anytime and anywhere will promote innovations not only in mobile communications but also in the information and communications economy as a whole. Therefore high-performance communications infrastructure is a vital precondition for an effective cloud cover. The mobile use of the Internet and its services will create independent areas of new applications and will help to bridge the digital divide as quickly as possible.
With the Federal Government’s broadband strategy, Germany has set ambitious targets for nationwide supply. It aims at a provision with broadband connections of at least 1 Mbit/sec (downstream) as soon as possible. As well as DSL and cable providers, radio technologies in particular and, in some individual cases, satellite systems contribute to full basic broadband coverage.
Germany was the first country in Europe to release and auction digital dividend frequencies for broadband mobile radio applications. Germany’s frequency auction in 2010 offered the opportunity to provide citizens and consumers with higher quality, greater capacity and improved speeds in mobile data use. On 20 May 2010, after three years of intensive preparation, six weeks of auctioning and 224 auction rounds the result of Germany’s frequency auction emerged. All in all, roughly 360 MHz from four frequency ranges (800 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2 GHz and 2.6 GHz) were auctioned for wireless access for the provision of telecommunications services. This corresponds to about 2.5 times the available frequency spectrum of the UMTS auction in 2000.
The frequencies were awarded for wireless access for the provision of telecommunications services on a technology and service-neutral basis. Therefore we are now in a position to launch and use the latest mobile network technologies in Germany and thereby to spur a new round of innovation not only in mobile communications but also in the communications economy as a whole.
The 800 MHz frequencies are tied to an extensive coverage obligation in respect of ‘uncharted territories’. Under this obligation, the frequency assignment holder is bound to ensure coverage of 90 per cent of the population in the towns and communities named by the individual federal states throughout Germany after 1 January 2016.
In the meantime all parties involved took advantage of the opportunities offered to them. Immediately after assigning digital dividend frequencies, work began with network expansion to include unserved areas: the Federal Network Agency secured a fast network rollout – particularly in the 800 MHz band – and determined specific parameters for several hundred base stations. Since December 2010 LTE networks, operating with 800 MHz frequencies, were launched in ‘white spots’ in Germany. In 2011 at the latest, we expect to achieve full national basic broadband coverage, so that companies and households in rural areas will have access to modern ICT.
In addition to ubiquitous broadband connectivity, keen but fair competition in the mobile sector is another key condition for the utilisation of the cloud. The more mobile network operators are competing in a market, the bigger the consumer benefit will be. A brisk market leads to decreasing prices, stimulates investments and fosters innovation.
Flexible frequency licences
Being both a telecoms watchdog and a frequency manager, I am highly sensitive to the fact that suitable spectrum holdings are crucial for the competitiveness of mobile operators and that least restrictive conditions are pivotal for efficient investments and for an accelerated time-to-market for innovative technologies and services. Unlike many other European countries, Germany facilitated spectrum of at least five MHz in the 900 MHz band to all mobile operators. In October 2009, the German regulator decided to flexibilise all existing frequency licences identified for electronic communications services, inter alia the GSM licences.
Currently, the mobile spectrum holdings in Germany are under assessment according to Article 1(2) of the amended GSM Directive. Under examination is whether the existing assignment of the 900 MHz band to the competing mobile operators in Germany is likely to distort competition in the mobile markets concerned. The European Commission agreed to commence the examination subsequent to the recent spectrum auction to be able to take the auction results into consideration. In the course of the examination, inter alia two public consultations and one public oral hearing have been performed. Moreover, the Bundesnetzagentur obtained expert advice from the Technical University of Vienna. The consultants concluded on the basis of a combination of spectrum costs and network costs that there are no indicators for competition distortions stemming from spectrum distribution and the flexibilisation of the 900 MHz band. The comprehensive examination of competition aspects is expected to be completed soon.
All these measures facilitate a fast growth of mobile broadband in Germany. The regulator is committed to react adequately on current situations to ensure investment and competition in a dynamic, competitive environment. On the infrastructure side the way is clear for new services and innovative applications.