What is 5G? – Advantages, risks & current status of the 5G network

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Dusseldorf On June 12, 2019, the path to a new technology was paved in a simple functional building in Mainz. The Federal Network Agency auctioned off the frequencies for real-time mobile 5G. Technology should do more than just faster mobile internet. It should make completely new applications possible.

Behind it is the performance of 5G. The fifth generation of mobile radio technology – hence the number in the name – is intended to enable data transmission almost in real time for the first time. A universal translator in your ear or the power of high-performance computers in your pocket: All of this should be possible thanks to the low latency of 5G.

However, it will take years to develop the technology and consume billions of euros. How much exactly, nobody wants to commit to that. A race for technology has emerged worldwide. China, South Korea and Japan in particular, but also the United States, have declared 5G to be a key technology for the economy of the future. The Federal Government has given Germany the goal of becoming the “lead market” for 5G.

At the same time, various companies are struggling for technological leadership at 5G. The Huawei group in China in particular is very far in development. However, the US accuses the company of doing cyber espionage for the Chinese government. You have called on other countries, including Germany, not to use Huawei technology for 5G expansion. Huawei denies the allegations.

What is 5G?

5G denotes the fifth generation of mobile communications. It continues to develop the previous standards 2G (GSM), 3G (UMTS) and 4G (LTE). The 5G standard enables a latency of less than one millisecond. It is faster than blinking an eye. At the same time, the technology enables data rates of up to ten gigabits per second. That is at least ten times the peak performance of the previous 4G standard.

The 5G technology has not yet been finally developed. The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which brings together many mobile phone companies, determines the details of the standard. Many functions are already defined. Other characteristics will only be finally decided in the next few years. Only when the details are clear can network suppliers such as Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia develop corresponding products for the mass market.

What does the expansion of 5G cost?

After more than twelve weeks, the 5G mobile frequency auction ended on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica and 1 & 1 Drillisch pay a total of 6,549,651,000 euros. Newcomer as a network operator is 1 & 1 Drillisch, behind which the company United Internet (GMX, Web.de) stands. In future, there will be radio masts from four and not just three companies in Germany. It was the longest auction in Germany to date. The companies did not have to transfer the money at once, but can pay the amounts in installments.

Deutsche Telekom spent the most money on the auction with around 2.2 billion euros. Vodafone invested EUR 1.9 billion, Telefónica (O2) EUR 1.4 billion and Drillisch around EUR 1 billion. The frequencies are allocated until 2040. Then they can be auctioned again. The network operators have also been given requirements as to how far they have to expand their network.

When will 5G be available nationwide?

Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are the farthest in developing their networks. Telekom wants to provide around 40 million people in Germany with 5G by the end of 2020. Vodafone has announced that it will reach around ten million people by the end of the year. In the first stage of expansion, however, real-time data transfers are not yet achieved. This will require new technology and also new locations, which are likely to follow in the next few years.

Deutsche Telekom has announced that it will supply 5G to at least 99 percent of the German population and 90 percent of the country’s territory by the end of 2025.

Who benefits the most from 5G?

The new generation of mobile communications is initially of particular interest to industry. For some years now, manufacturing companies in Germany have been driving the networking of their factories and logistics chains – also called Industry 4.0. 5G is supposed to work like a turbo.

The technology is intended to facilitate the use of robots and sensors and also enable networking across multiple locations. The automotive industry also sees 5G as an important technology for networking vehicles. This should then also make autonomous driving possible.

How expensive is 5G for companies?

Germany went an international special way at 5G. The frequencies for mobile communications were not only auctioned off to network operators, but some were reserved for companies, research institutions and agriculture. They did not have to participate in the auction, but can apply for local frequencies for their factories, fields or laboratories directly from the Federal Network Agency. This means that no nationwide networks can be set up. However, localized networks are often sufficient for operators and research institutions.

Together with the mobile service provider Mugler, the Handelsblatt has worked out five scenarios for setting up local networks in Germany. A first scenario plays out the case of a small medium-sized company with an office building and two production halls. The aim of the company is to network the production processes in the style of Industry 4.0. It is about 30,000 square meters in a settlement area. In such areas, the Federal Network Agency is charging higher fees for setting up a 5G network.

The Mugler experts assume that the company requires a bandwidth of 30 megahertz (MHz). The Federal Network Agency would bill costs of around 1,500 euros for this. However, this is only the smallest part of the expansion costs for 5G. Planning costs are expected to be about ten times as high.

Then there is the system technology, i.e. the actual equipment for 5G, which would cost another 150,000 euros. The actual operating costs would amount to 180,000 euros for ten years. This results in a total cost of 346,500 euros. The control of the network would be completely in the hands of the medium-sized company.

Further scenarios from the stadium to the airport can be found in the attached table.

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Are new end devices necessary for 5G?

The short answer: yes. If you want to use the full power of 5G, you also need appropriate devices. All major smartphone manufacturers have already used devices with 5G, or at least have announced them. Apple is also expecting the first iPhone with 5G in the course of 2020.

New end devices are also required in industry. There are experts who, instead of 5G, are also calculating the new WiFi standard Wifi 6 as good chances to play a major role in networking the industry.

Similar to 5G, Wifi 6 also offers significantly higher speeds and lower latency. In contrast to 5G, the technology has the advantage that it is downward compatible. This means that in a factory networked with Wifi 6, both new devices can be used that support modern technology. At the same time, devices that are only compatible with older wifi generations can remain in use.

Why is the Chinese supplier Huawei criticized?

Above all, the US government accuses the company from Shenzhen in southern China of maintaining close relationships with the Chinese government. Washington warns that the use of Huawei opens up many opportunities for espionage or sabotage by Beijing. So far, however, she has provided evidence that is not reliable in public. Huawei denies the allegations.

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However, Chinese security laws are forcing companies in the country to cooperate widely with security agencies. Huawei could be forced to work with Beijing.

The extent to which the Chinese state has access is controversial. Huawei itself has commissioned legal opinions to provide evidence that the group cannot be forced to cooperate. Legal experts doubt that Huawei can ultimately avoid access by the state.

What role does Huawei play in Germany?

Huawei is by far the most important network supplier in the Federal Republic. Technology from Huawei is in all networks. At Telekom, components from Huawei make up the majority of the technology installed in the mobile network. Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica continue to use Huawei technology in Germany to expand 5G. The federal government has not yet finalized how far it intends to allow Huawei to expand the network in Germany in the longer term.

Are new masts being built in Germany for 5G?

Yes, many of them. Nobody can estimate how many exactly. This is related to a technical peculiarity. The frequencies, which have particularly high capacities, i.e. can quickly transport a lot of data, have a shorter range. In certain cases, house walls can already cause performance to deteriorate.

Plans for the expansion of 5G in cities or on industrial plants therefore usually provide that new transmitters are set up in addition to existing antennas. These could, for example, be integrated into street lamps or other existing infrastructure.

At the end of February 2020, the Federal Network Agency counted over 85,000 mobile phone locations across Germany. This number should increase significantly due to the 5G expansion. For example, the discussion is about making the roofs of public buildings easier for new cell towers.

How is 5G related to broadband expansion?

Closely. Internet connections with fiber optics have the highest capacities. This applies to connections in companies or homes as well as to mobile phone locations. In order to connect a cell phone site with the best performance with 5G, it must also be connected with fiber optics.

Deutsche Telekom has laid more than 500,000 kilometers of glass fiber in Germany and, according to its own information, has connected more than 80 percent of its mobile phone locations with fiber. Vodafone and Telefónica reported several years ago that they had opened up more than ten percent of their mobile phone locations with fiber optics. However, the companies are currently not giving an update on how far the expansion is now.

In the past, especially in rural regions, network operators were happy to use directional radio to access mobile phone locations in order to save the time-consuming and expensive laying of cables. But directional radio is much more susceptible to interference. Even with strong rules, connection errors can arise. For the 5G expansion, the network equipment suppliers recommend supplying all locations with fiber optics in order to be able to offer reliable performance.

Is 5G a health hazard?

For years, scientific studies have dealt with the question of whether and what influence cell phone radiation has on people. In Germany, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) takes care of these questions.

BfS President Inge Paulini said: “The first step in using the 5G mobile radio standard is to use the frequencies that we already use in mobile radio today. The effect of electromagnetic radiation from mobile communications on people has been well researched. ”There are limit values ​​to prevent the effects of mobile phone radiation on citizens in Germany. These limits would be met.

The Stiftung Warentest recently summarized many of the available studies. In the analysis, the consumer organization came to the conclusion: “The research findings provide little cause for concern.”

5G start in Germany: The new mobile phone can do that

ARD science journalist Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim researched a possible connection between cell phone radiation and cancer and came to the conclusion: “So far, there is no conclusive hypothesis – no idea of ​​how cell phone radiation could theoretically trigger cancer.”

Over the next few years, 5G expansion in Germany will focus on a frequency spectrum that has been well researched. In the next stages of expansion, however, high frequency with millimeter waves could also be used. So far, there are not many studies available for these frequencies. Paulini said: “The BfS advises prudent expansion of 5G and will continue to research the effects of the new frequency ranges.”

More: The security of our networks must be a top priority – says Stephan Scheuer, our editor for IT and mobile communications.

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