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O2's 5G network starts in five cities in October


Telefónica initially plans to commission a total of 150 base stations for the 5G network. Customers get access at no extra charge - if they have booked the right tariff.

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O2 logo

Photo: Wolfgang Rattay / REUTERS

Holiday also for Telefónica: On October 3rd, the day of German unity, the company wants to launch its 5G network with the brand O2 in five German cities, at least symbolically.

O2 customers should only be able to benefit from the new mobile network from October 6th in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Cologne - provided they have a smartphone that supports 5G and a suitable tariff.

A total of 150 base stations are to be put into operation in the five cities at the start.

According to the company, nine million people should be able to experience "5G from O2 in their city".

Markus Haas, CEO of Telefónica Deutschland, announced: "5G is crucial for our digital future. We are therefore investing four billion euros in the expansion of our O2 network by 2022."

Much slower in the upload

The tariffs that will automatically include 5G are called O2 Free L (including 60 GB high-speed data volume from 39.99 euros per month), O2 Free L Boost and O2 Free Unlimited Smart and Unlimited Max (both with unlimited data volume).

Existing customers who have opted for a "5G-ready" tariff will be informed by SMS and email that they can activate the 5G option at no additional cost.

We tested a selection of mid-range 5G smartphones here.

"At the beginning, O2 offers an industry-standard 5G maximum speed of 300 Mbit / s," says the Telefónica press release.

In the footnotes it is noted that the upload speed will be no more than 50 Mbit / s.

Finally understandable: This is why the new mobile communications standard is so important

1. What is 5G? Up arrow Down arrow

5G is a 

new mobile communications standard

that will have a decisive impact on Germany's digital future.

With it, data can be transmitted wirelessly much faster - and above all with a significantly shorter delay than before.

The name shows that this is the 

fifth generation

 of mobile communications, the first still consisting of analog networks.

The following 

previous standards

 are also generally referred to as 2G, 3G and 4G, but are more commonly known in Germany under names such as GSM (2G), UMTS (3G) and LTE (3.9G, 4G).

While UMTS, for example, made mobile surfing suitable for everyday use in the first place, LTE brought significantly higher data transmission rates.

The federal government describes 5G as the 

"key technology of digital transformation"


Frank Fitzek from 5G Lab Germany, a research association at the Technical University of Dresden, also sees 5G as the 

future "backbone of our industry"

 - albeit by no means a holy grail: For example, the assumption that there would be none in Germany in the age of 5G is wrong Give more dead spots (see also question 9).

2. What distinguishes 5G from previous standards? Arrow up Arrow down

Many people think of 5G as 

more stable video streams


faster downloads


In fact, technology can make all of that possible.

Technically, data rates of up to ten gigabits per second are conceivable.

In terms of magnitude: In 2018, data could be downloaded at an average of 24 Mbit per second via private Internet connections in Germany.

Most experts, however, consider 5G to be more relevant in the context of companies or future technologies, for example for 

controlling and networking robots, machines and other devices

, in 

goods logistics

 and in 

autonomous driving


"5G is more than just a new mobile communications standard with which I can surf the Internet faster," says Bernhard Niemann, Head of Broadband and Broadcasting at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) in Erlangen.

5G brings great advances in terms of so-called latency, which is the network's response time, so to speak.

With 5G, 

extremely short latencies

 of less than a millisecond can be achieved - this is particularly helpful for autonomous driving when the car receives control commands from the network.

5G networks can also be set up in such a way that they 

connect hundreds of thousands or even millions of devices with one another


Use cases for this could be smart cities and industrial plants in which, for example, sensors and control devices are networked with one another.

However, Fraunhofer expert Niemann warns against expecting a 5G network to deliver the best possible performance in all of these areas at the same time: "Depending on the application, you have to decide," he says.

"Do I want ten gigabits of throughput per second now, or do I want ten years of service life for an ordinary AAA battery?"

 According to Frank Fitzek from 5G Lab Germany, it is difficult to predict

what the

"killer application for 5G"

will be in

the end 


The expert recalls the 3G standard, i.e. UMTS: it was initially about video telephony, but in retrospect the mobile Internet was the most important application.

"And with 2G it was the SMS in the end," says Fitzek.

"Every technology has always promised something specific, but something else was subsequently the big use case or the big cash cow."

3. How and when does Germany get 5G networks? Up arrow Down arrow

It is expected that 

four companies

 will operate their own 5G radio networks from 2020.

On the one hand there are the established network providers Telekom, Vodafone and O2 Telefónica, on the other hand 1 & 1 Drillisch is also participating in the auction as a newcomer.

If you want to operate a 5G network, you have to bid for the appropriate frequencies from the Federal Network Agency (see question 6) from March 19, 2019.

In return for acquiring the right of use, the mobile phone providers undertake to push ahead with the expansion of the network.

 The established network operators have been experimenting with 5G technology for a long time

in the form of 

individual test projects


Telekom, for example, has 5G projects in downtown Berlin and in the Port of Hamburg, Vodafone has set up a 5G mast in Aldenhoven near Aachen.

Telefónica Deutschland is testing 5G applications together with Huawei in Munich.

Independent of the auction, the Federal Network Agency will award additional frequencies suitable for 5G in 2019.

Industrial companies

, for example, should

 be able to use

these frequencies 

locally to set up their own 

networks at company headquarters


Daimler, Volkswagen and BMW, for example, have already expressed interest in such frequencies.

The frequencies are not allocated in the form of an auction, but through an 

application process


The network operators are critical of this second round of frequency allocation: They warn, for example, of fragmentation or an artificial shortage of the radio spectrum available for 5G.

But there are also business interests behind the criticism: In such cases, the wireless service providers would of course prefer to make their own 5G networks available for a corresponding fee.

They fear the loss of major customers.

4. Why are politicians arguing so fiercely about 5G? Up arrow Down arrow

The mobile network operators who bid for the corresponding frequency ranges are building the 5G networks - according to the requirements of the Federal Network Agency.

The authority is formally independent and only bound by European law.

But politicians are



to influence the rules for network construction

, for example through the 

network agency's parliamentary advisory board

 and in direct discussions between the network agency and the federal government.

The SPD member of the Bundestag Saskia Esken, who sits on the advisory board of the network agency, says: "If the result is bad, if there are 'blank spots' as with the LTE supply, then the voters primarily blame us for it. Not the Federal Network Agency and not the mobile phone providers. "

Different views clash in the political debate: some are more business-friendly, others more consumer-friendly.

Above all, it has been and is disputed whether an 

obligation to completely

 cover Germany with fast internet as a requirement for the operator of a 5G network would have made sense.

Opponents of this idea emphasize that it would entail such high investment costs that the providers could offer little for the frequencies in return.

On the other hand, politicians who advocate the highest possible requirements for providers fear that, without corresponding expansion obligations, only those areas will be supplied with 5G where it is worthwhile for the provider.

Anyone who is already poorly connected to the Internet today would probably also lag behind in the future.

Further points of contention, where business and consumer-friendly positions collide, are 

sanctions against the mobile network operators

if they fail to meet the requirements on time and so-called 

national roaming


That would have obliged the provider to let customers of other providers use their network if necessary.

This could have improved coverage of remote areas and reduced costs for providers.

In the final auction conditions, however, the Federal Network Agency did not make national roaming a mandatory requirement.

5. What role will Huawei play in setting up the 5G network? Up arrow Down arrow

The practical side of network construction is a hot topic - not only in Germany, but in many Western countries.

The question of whether it is responsible for Chinese companies - especially Huawei - to participate in the development of the network is disputed on an international level.

Mostly, reference is made to 

China's "National Secret Service Law"

, with which the government obliges Huawei and other companies to cooperate, even if they are active abroad.

The US in particular is warning of possible espionage from China and is urging its partners to leave Huawei outside of the network.

US Ambassador Richard Grenell even threatened in a letter to Economics Minister Peter Altmaier that the US could 


cooperation with German secret services

if Huawei were to participate in the network development.

Huawei defends itself against allegations of espionage

 - and many IT security experts are also skeptical about the exclusion of Huawei from the network structure.

"Huawei made us happy with 2G, 3G and 4G technology," says Karsten Nohl, for example, who is known for cell phone hacks with his company Security Research Labs.

"I cannot understand why one should now say 'Caution, do not install it in 5G networks'".

So far, 

no one has published

evidence that would prove that Huawei is misusing its cellular technology for espionage purposes.

Walter Haas, Chief Technology Officer at Huawei Germany, says: "Now that German cars and auto parts have also been declared a threat to the national security of the United States, it must be clear to everyone that this is only about brutal economic policy."

The technology of the Chinese companies is interesting for the network operators because it is considered to be progressive and inexpensive at the same time.


an alternative to Huawei technology

 , hardware from companies such as Ericsson from Sweden, Nokia from Finland, Samsung from South Korea or the US company Cisco could be used.

A final decision on whether and under what conditions Huawei may be involved in setting up the 5G network in Germany had not yet been made by mid-March 2019.

6. Why are the frequencies being auctioned? Up arrow Down arrow

If you want to set up a 5G network, you have to



radio frequencies


In Germany, the 

Federal Network Agency is

 responsible for awarding the frequencies.

The Bonn authority ensures that various wireless technologies, such as those used in radio or airport radar, do not get in each other's way.

If the frequency usage were not regulated, it could happen, for example, that wireless headphones interfere with some garage door openers or the police radio.

In Germany, mobile radio frequencies are only ever allocated for a certain period of time.

Some of the frequencies intended for 5G, which the Federal Network Agency will auction from March 19, 2019, have so far been used for UMTS (3G).

If you want to use the 5G frequencies, you not only have to pay money for it, but also have to submit to certain conditions (see question 9).

Fiete Wulff from the Federal Network Agency says an auction is being held because frequencies are scarce and demand is greater than supply.

7. How does the auction work? Up arrow Down arrow

The auction takes place 

under high security precautions in Mainz

 - even jammers are to be used.

"The bidding companies are on site with their representatives and are each located in 

specially secured, separate rooms

 with clearly regulated communication options," says Fiete Wulff - for example, contacts to the corporate headquarters are possible.

Wulff says that bidding takes place on the PC, with minimum bids and bid increments.

The four participants - Telekom, Vodafone, O2 Telefónica and 1 & 1 Drillisch - can


on different 

frequency packages or "blocks"

, as the network agency calls it.

It is expected that the frequency auction will take 

several weeks


The last auction in 2015 saw a total of 180 bidding rounds.

Each round lasts a maximum of one hour.

8. Who will get the money from the auction? Up arrow Down arrow

The revenues from the frequency auctions of the Federal Network Agency flow into the state treasury.

According to the coalition agreement, the federal government wants to use the money from the 5G frequency auction to set up an "investment fund that is available for expanding the digital infrastructure", for example for expanding the fiber optic network.

The network operators do not have to pay for their right to use the 5G frequencies until 2020, because only then can they actually use the frequencies.

How much money the frequency auction will bring in is unclear.

There are indeed 

billions in income

 expected, with a result of the order of the 

UMTS license auction in 2000

, the equivalent of about 50 billion euros were saved in, count this time but no.

In retrospect, the UMTS auction of 2000 is also regarded as an unsustainable company.

Although the state made a lot of money with the auction, the networks were not expanded as well as politicians and many cell phone users had hoped.

9. What are the requirements for 5G network operators? Up arrow Down arrow

The services that the Federal Network Agency will demand from network operators in return for the use of 5G frequencies are controversial.

They are criticized as too lax or too strict, depending on your perspective.

Here is an excerpt from the final editions (the complete set of rules can be found here):

  • Every network operator who buys 5G frequencies would have 

    to provide at least 98 percent of the households in each federal state

     with a data speed of at least 100 Mbit per second for download

    by the end of 2022


    This regulation is likely to mean that - depending on the estimate - 10 or even 20 to 30 percent of the area of ​​Germany will initially remain unsupervised.

  • The telecommunications companies would be obliged to

     provide a network with at least 100 Mbit per second


    railway lines "with more than 2000 passengers per day"

    by the end of 2022 


    The same applies to 

    all motorways and the most important federal highways


  • The remaining federal

    highways should be

     supplied with such a network by the

    end of 2024 



    country roads, state roads, waterways and "all other railways"

     , data should be transmitted with at least 50 Mbit per second by the end of 2024.

  • On federal motorways and federal highways, the



    not exceed 10 milliseconds

    : 5G technology would have to be used here, while this is not clearly defined for the other goals.

  • By the end of 2022, every provider would have to put 

    1000 5G base stations

     and 500 base stations into operation with a transmission rate of at least 100 Mbit per second "in white spots" - in other words in rural areas and in areas where network expansion is otherwise uneconomical.

    However, the Federal Network Agency also makes it clear that even after these requirements have been met, there will still be areas "in which there is still no mobile broadband coverage".

    Dead spots will therefore continue to belong to Germany.

  • Even if there should be no legal obligation for

    national roaming

     , the authority imposes a "negotiation


    " on the network operators and wants to force them to cooperate.

  • Newcomers

     without their own network infrastructure would initially have to meet lower supply obligations and, for example, only reach a quarter of households by the end of 2023.

  • 10. Is Germany lagging behind on 5G? Up arrow Down arrow

    In the debate about 5G, politicians and business representatives repeatedly warn that Germany is "falling behind" when it comes to digitization.

    This may be true in some areas, but with a view to 5G this is not necessarily the case (yet).

    In any case, a look abroad shows that things are progressing faster elsewhere when it comes to 5G, but not entirely different:

  • In 


     , the provider Ooredoo prides itself on having put the first commercial 5G network into operation.

    However, this is of little use to the people there as long as they cannot buy 5G-compatible devices.

  • In the 


     , the provider Verizon and Motorola want to offer the first 5G package for consumers in 2019, consisting of additional hardware for the Moto Z3 smartphone, mobile 5G network and a suitable contract.

    T-Mobile wants to present a 5G prepaid offer in 2019 and the provider Sprint is cooperating with LG in order to be able to start with 5G in the first half of 2019, at least in some large cities.

    The first 5G frequency auction in the USA started in November 2018 and is expected to last 15 months.

  • In 

    South Korea

     we are already further: the local mobile phone providers want to jointly make commercial 5G networks accessible to their customers as early as March 2019.

  • In Europe, the heads of government of 

    Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have

     agreed to create "the world's first and best integrated 5G region" - but without specifying a date.

  • While it is still too early to make a statement with 5G, it can be stated that Germany is lagging behind in the classic broadband expansion in the form of fiber optic connections.

    The statistical experts at Statista recently described Germany as a 

    "fiber optic developing country"


    "Almost nowhere in the industrialized countries is the glass fiber content so low," said a graphic on the subject in August 2018.

    However, many experts assume that the 5G expansion could push the fiber optic expansion in Germany a little.

    The reason is simple: The 

    5G radio masts are connected to the networks via fiber optics

    , so new fiber optic cables will be laid on many streets and in many areas in the near future.

    11. Does 5G mean the end of 4G? Up arrow Down arrow


    4G will not be switched off because of 5G


    Instead, the technology is also used, so that a 5G service can later be accessed via a 4G network.

    Frank Fitzek from 5G Lab Germany explains how that could look in everyday life: "Assume you have two 5G participants," he says: "One is your car, the other is your children in the back room who are watching Netflix. The moment the kids turn on Netflix, the 5G network knows that there is still enough bandwidth for the application on 4G. Then it puts it there and everything is streamed via 4G for as long as that lasts. The car is against it continue to run on 5G because the low latency is required. "

    Bernhard Niemann also says that 4G and 5G will 

    coexist "for a while"


    The Fraunhofer expert believes that in many situations in the future, users will not even notice whether their device is currently using 4G or 5G - if it is capable of 5G at all.

    First of all, only tech enthusiasts will probably buy smartphones or tablets with 5G capabilities (see question 13).

    Telekom also says that the 4G standard will "remain an integral part of 5G". Even 2G will "continue to exist as long as there is a need for it. A 

    switch-off of 3G is conceivable first

    , with targeted end device management by the mobile communications company taking care of this will ensure that customers are not affected. "

    12. Will 5G make cell phone tariffs more expensive? Up arrow Down arrow

    Of course, the mobile phone providers want to bring back the money they spend on frequencies and network expansion.

    However, if you don't need 5G - and most private users should still be able to use 4G in 2020 - you will probably not have to spend more on your smartphone tariff in the future either.

    With 5G, mobile operators will initially earn money 

    with corporate customers


    In the business sector, 5G allows for much larger leaps than in everyday life for normal users (see question 2).

    It is currently difficult to reliably predict what exactly 5G tariffs will cost for private users.

    Telekom and Telefónica Deutschland did not want to comment on this yet, and Vodafone only emphasized that mobile communications had become cheaper and cheaper in the past: "Either because prices were falling or because there was always more service for the same price."

    How the prices for 5G will develop cannot be predicted, but the goal is to make 5G affordable for everyone.

    13. Are there already 5G smartphones? Up arrow Down arrow

    At the Mobile World Congress, a tech trade fair taking place in Barcelona, ​​5G was one of the most important topics at the end of February 2019.

    Numerous hardware providers presented their plans for the new cellular standard.

    For example, Huawei presented "the first 5G smartphone with a foldable screen": The 

    Mate X

     is due to hit the market in mid-2019 and will cost 2300 euros - mainly because of the screen.

    Almost all other large providers have also rushed ahead with 5G-capable devices in Barcelona: 


     for example, presented a device for around 600 euros.

    Also from 

    Samsung's Galaxy S10

     a 5G version has already been announced, called S10 5G for the summer of 2019.

    However, new hardware alone is of little use to users interested in 5G.

    You also need access to a 5G network from your provider and a suitable cell phone tariff.

    In particular, real data flat rates are likely to be in demand in the future, because in view of the data volumes commonly used up to now, theoretically every inclusive volume, however large, could be used up within minutes.

    For consumers, 5G will only become interesting when there is an 

    ecosystem of hardware, network, applications, tariffs and content


    So you should carefully weigh up whether you really want to be one of the first with 5G or rather wait until all the building blocks interlock.

    14. Why does 5G need so many new radio masts? Up arrow Down arrow

    For 5G,

    thousands of new base stations have to be

     set up

    across the country 

    - not only because of the requirements of the Federal Network Agency, but also because the 5G radio cells are comparatively small.

    "From 2G to 3G to 4G, the cells have become more and more powerful, but have also become smaller and smaller," explains Frank Fitzek from 5G Lab Germany, "and that happens again now when you go higher in frequency."

    The frequencies that the network agency is now offering for 5G are in the

    2 GHz and 3.6 GHz ranges

    , the authority speaks of so-called 




    These frequencies are well suited for very high data rates and high capacities, but at the same time they only have a short range.

    So you need more cell phone stations to cover large areas.

    This is how they differ from so-called 

    area frequencies


    Frank Fitzek estimates that the construction of 5G networks across the entire area of ​​Germany will be about as expensive as the network expansion for the previous mobile communications standards.

    But the result is different: From now on, you have 

    an intelligent network

    , says Fitzek, who has been researching 5G technology for many years.

    "Just like Gouda melts on a hot pizza," the cloud and the network would merge.

    In the past, the network providers "operated a kind of stupid pipeline," says Fitzek.

    "Now they are getting a smart pipeline, a network that thinks for itself."

    15. Can 5G pose a health risk? Up arrow Down arrow

    According to the

    Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS),

     the current state of research on exposure to electromagnetic fields

    applies to the intended frequency ranges that are already used today for mobile communications or that are directly adjacent 


    It says: "If the limit values ​​and recommended limits are adhered to according to the current state of scientific knowledge, no adverse health effects are to be expected."

    According to the BfS, there are also "limit values ​​that

    protect against health risks according to current scientific knowledge

    " for the higher frequency ranges 


    However, there are simply not that many studies on them yet.

    Regarding the foreseeable

    additional cell phone masts

    to be erected 


     the BfS says that their radiation power is lower than the previous base stations, but that they will also be built closer to where people are staying, for example along the streets: "How the new network structures affect in the extent to which citizens will be exposed to electromagnetic fields cannot yet be conclusively assessed. "

    Above all, people who describe themselves as 


     fear that 5G poses a risk for them: Almost two percent of Germans state that they suffer from insomnia, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating due to electrical and magnetic fields in their environment.

    But the BfS refers to the research results on the phenomenon: "The conclusion of the numerous studies carried out so far is that a causal relationship between electrical and magnetic fields and the complaints of electro-sensitive people can be ruled out with a high degree of probability."

    Sarah Drießen from the Aachen Research Center for Electro-Magnetic Environmental Compatibility (femu) recommends that people who are interested in the effects of electromagnetic fields visit the 

    EMF portal at their university


    The portal researches scientific research results on the topic and systematically summarizes them.

    16. What is network slicing all about? Up arrow Down arrow

    A technical term that is often used in the context of 5G is 

    network slicing


    Behind this is a technology that is only offered by the new cellular standard.

    In simple terms, it allows 

    several virtual networks to be set up in a physical network


    These so-called slices can then each have certain different characteristics, for example a particularly low latency, a particularly high data rate or the ability to transmit data from a large number of devices at the same time.

    One and the same cellular network should simultaneously meet the needs of very different user groups.

    You can imagine it roughly like a motorway with lanes of different widths.

    All normal people drive on one of them, the police and fire brigade rush to their missions on another, narrower lane, and on a third, even narrower one, status and warning messages are sent to the autopilots of the cars with a supersonic pneumatic tube system.

    Fraunhofer expert Bernhard Niemann uses the example of a stadium to explain why 

    network slicing

     makes sense.

    There, the network would initially be designed so that visitors could, for example, post videos or send messages.

    "If there were an emergency, however, a slice could also be freed, so to speak, and thus create more space for 

    critical communication

     ," says Niemann, "so that the emergency services can communicate with each other with the lowest possible latency. That would mean the fans could no longer stream as much, but the emergency services are guaranteed to have their resources available. "

    As sensible as 

    network slicing

     sounds at first, it is also creating a conflict in network policy: Many experts are skeptical as to whether and how the use of the technology can be reconciled with the principle of network neutrality.

    17. Is autonomous driving only possible with 5G? Up arrow Down arrow

    When it comes to the question of whether Germany needs a 100 percent nationwide 5G network, the topic of

    autonomous driving

    is repeatedly 


    In a comment in the "Bild" newspaper at the beginning of November, for example, there was talk of "no autonomous driving in all of Germany" would be possible without nationwide 5G.

    Reality is not that simple, as Frank Fitzek from Dresden's 5G Lab Germany explains: "You can have a car drive completely autonomously without a network," he says.


    in the event of a power failure, it

     must be possible to move a car.

    A car that in such a case only has to rely on its sensors or local communication with nearby cars will probably not be able or allowed to drive as fast as one with a network connection, says Fitzek.

    "In terms of CO2 emissions, efficiency on the road and safety, you need 5G," says the expert.

    "If that doesn't exist at the moment, the technology could say to the car, for example: Okay, then you don't drive 200 on the autobahn, but 30. And as soon as the 5G network is available again, you drive faster again."

    Incidentally, Frank Fitzek warns against

    expecting 5G technology in cars

    too early 

     : "If the auto industry decides today to make a new screw, it will take four years before it is really in the car," he says.

    "It's the same with the technology. So far, the car manufacturers don't even know where to stick the antenna."

    Deutsche Telekom also advertises with up to 300 Mbit / s - in its LTE network.

    The Bonn-based company had also announced in April that "more than half of the German population" should "benefit from 5G" in the course of the year by upgrading existing cell phone sites with the new technology.

    The Federal Network Agency, on the other hand, is urging that the providers first meet their requirements for the expansion of LTE networks that were set at the auction of the 5G frequencies.

    Icon: The mirror


    Source: spiegel

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