German regulator expects to award 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2GHz and 3.6GHz bands

Germany launched its 5G mobile spectrum auction after a court in Cologne rejected legal challenges from participating operators, international press reported.

The process, being organized by the country’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) takes place in the city of Mainz.

A total of four companies will compete for a total of 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands.

Germany’s three mobile operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – have been admitted by the regulator to take part in the spectrum auction.

Also participating is 1&1 Drillisch, a virtual mobile operator controlled by United Internet that intends to become Germany’s fourth mobile operator.

Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland had previously filed legal claims seeking to put the auction on hold, arguing that the terms of the auction were onerous for participating carriers.

However, the Cologne Administrative Court found earlier this week that the the regulator acted within its powers to require participating operators to commit to providing 5G network coverage covering 98% of households by 2022 to qualify for the process.

“It is important for us that we have a focus on industry, and on better coverage,” Jochen Homann, head of the BNetzA, said ahead of the auction.

The regulator said that all 41 blocks will be auctioned simultaneously, with results posted online after each round.

Among the final conditions of the process are a required minimum data rate of 100 Mbps available by the end of 2022 in 98% of households in each state, all federal highways, all main roads and along the major railway routes. Also, each existing carrier must also install 1,000 5G base stations and 500 other base stations in defined areas by the end of 2022. At the end of 2024, 5G coverage should be extended to seaports, main waterways and all other road and rail routes in the country. The regulator said that the minimum coverage rules will not be applicable to any new entrant.

The German authorities are receiving pressure from the Trump administration to not allow Chinese vendors to participate in future 5G contracts in the country.

Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell sent a letter to the German authorities saying that allowing the participation of Huawei or other Chinese equipment vendors in Germany’s 5G projects would mean the U.S. won’t be able to maintain the same level of cooperation with German security agencies.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel recently said that the country expects to define its own security standards for the deployment of 5G infrastructure. Merkel said that the German government was focused on providing guarantees for the security of digital networks, including the 5G mobile infrastructure.

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) recently published the key elements of its additional security requirements for telecommunications networks and services.

The new requirements stipulate that systems may only be sourced from trustworthy suppliers whose compliance with national security regulations and provisions for the secrecy of telecommunications and for data protection is assured.

New requirements set by the German government also say that network traffic must be regularly and constantly monitored for any abnormality and, if there is any cause for concern, appropriate protection measures must be taken.

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