In Brandenburg, the first electricity pylons are already equipped with 5G
Photo: Soeren Stache / dpa
Great expectations rest on the 5G network: from industrial applications to remote-controlled cars to replacing the DSL connection at home, the new, fast mobile communications technology should make a lot possible.
However, the mobile radio turbo only works in the area if the network of radio stations is linked much more closely than before.
However, lengthy approval procedures and local resistance to new locations are slowing down the expansion.
This is why electricity pylons, which are already in large numbers across the country, come into focus.
The electricity company E.on, for example, founded a subsidiary in Markkleeberg near Leipzig to promote this business.
Other electricity network operators are already providing masts for mobile communications.
But that has pitfalls.
New construction unnecessary
So far, such antennas have been attached to power poles, especially below the lines.
In order to reach greater heights, they should also be installed in the mast tips in the future, says Carsten Lagemann, one of the managing directors of E.on TowerCo.
He names masts along motorways, railway lines, waterways or on the outskirts of towns as important locations.
The advantages are obvious, according to Lagemann: on the one hand, the masts are already there and no building permits are required.
Setting up a radio station like this only takes about half as long as building a new radio mast: "We can do it in six to twelve months." In addition, the whole thing costs about half as much.
Other electricity network operators also provide masts for mobile communications.
"In the meantime, around 80 of our masts are equipped in this way," said an Amprion spokesman.
At 50Hertz, overhead line masts are already being used in this way, especially in Hamburg.
EnBW provides masts for mobile communications, but according to Pascal Kuhn, Head of Strategy, Broadband and Wireless Infrastructure, sees only »quiet music« in this business.
Rather, the company is aiming to set up an emergency network on the frequency of 450 megahertz - as a channel for critical infrastructure facilities such as electricity and water management.
It should also work for at least three days in the event of a major power failure.
No universal solution
The need for new mobile radio stations is great.
According to Telekom alone, more than 1,500 new locations are added every year.
"In addition to the construction of a nationwide 5G network, there are also network densifications, gap closures and license fulfillment," explained spokesman Niels Hafenrichter.
The Europe-wide radio mast operator Vantage Towers claims to have an agreement with Vodafone, according to which up to 5,500 new locations in Germany are to be put into operation by the end of 2026.
So far, however, less than 0.5 percent of the company's approximately 19,400 radio masts in Germany are on high-voltage pylons.
One shortcoming is the limited access, for example in the event of disruptions due to the live lines of the masts.
In addition, the statics are sometimes not sufficient, and access and the power supply for the transmission technology can be a challenge.
The often easier approval and processing speak in favor of the idea.
E.on TowerCo bundles all services for network operators, including the power connection and the fiber optic connection of stations.
According to E.on TowerCo, the first pilot projects are currently being implemented in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, which also involve antennas in the mast tips.
The new locations are scheduled to go into operation at the beginning of 2023, and the company is preparing further projects in Saxony-Anhalt.
In the medium term it is aiming for 300 cellphone stations, in the longer term a thousand and more.
Interesting for rural regions
According to Vantage Towers, existing power masts can be an alternative to new radio masts, for example in rural areas that have special requirements in terms of landscape and nature conservation.
Because there, new masts are often not approved at all or only under difficult conditions, and the application procedures also take a very long time.
However, existing electricity pylons are by no means the only alternative to building new cell phone masts.
The antennas can often be found on house roofs, for example.
According to Vodafone, “mobile phone sites should fit as seamlessly as possible into the cityscape, especially in cities.
In Cologne, for example, there are now two street lamps that not only provide light at night, but also serve as cell phone antennas.
And in Düsseldorf, advertising pillars have been upgraded to become 5G stations.
Deutsche Bahn and gas suppliers are also working with network operators to equip their infrastructure with radio cells.
Andreas Hummel, dpa/tmk