Expert calls for regulators to leave 5G specs to industry

03 SEP 2018

LIVE FROM OPERATIONS TRANSFORMATION FORUM 2018: A former head of Germany’s Federal Network Agency believes the best way regulators can foster 5G development and deployment is to stay away from standardisation efforts.

Matthias Kurth, current executive chairman of Cable Europe and former president of the German regulator (pictured), explained development of 5G specifications is best left to the telecoms industry because the global nature of the business means international cooperation is a must.

“In the old world of GSM, we had not international standards, we had sometimes regional standards and that was not good for interoperability, it was not good for the customer, not good for the citizens and also not good for the company.” Global cooperation on 5G standards shows the industry has learned its lesson “and we should not allow anybody to [interfere] with this international cooperation”.

Regulators and politicians often set unrealistic goals for mobile technology in terms of coverage, reliability and data rates, which the industry may not necessarily be able to achieve without massive investment (and associated risk), Kurth argued. In particular, politicians and regulators need to set realistic targets for 5G rollout rather than trying to rush deployments through, because the move to 5G will be more of an evolution than a big bang.

Investment case
Despite his views on regulatory interference at the standards-setting phase, Kurth was keen to note there is a role for such bodies in terms of ensuring sufficient spectrum is made available and formulating investment-friendly policies.

Kurth noted “companies paid billions” for spectrum rights in previous auctions in Germany, but that the business case for 5G may be a tougher sell without clarity over auctions and the benefits to investors: “How can you go to investors and say upfront we invest now dozens of billions, but return of this investment is more or less doubtful because somebody who is not interested might have the same benefit”?

The way to provide operators and their backers with some certainty is to “be early with handing out spectrum”, because this allows operators to plan for the future. Technology innovation is “crucial, not only for mobile markets, but for all of our industry,” Kurth noted.

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Michael Carroll

Michael doesn’t want to admit that he has been a journalist and editor for close to 20 years covering a diverse set of subjects including shipping and shipbuilding, fixed and mobile telecoms, and motorcycling...More

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