Discussion Papers

No. 451: Development of radio-based digitization in industry, energy economy and agriculture and specific frequency requirements (December 2019)

Authors: Matthias Franken, Matthias Wissner, Bernd Sörries

(full version only available in German)


The new 5G mobile communications standard offers new possibilities in the provision of specific telecommunication services that deviate from mass market applications due to high bandwidths, short latencies and high reliability. In June 2019, 300 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band were successfully auctioned for nationwide use. In the light of a demand for local frequency uses, corresponding frequencies in the range from 3.7 GHz to 3.8 GHz can be applied for from the Federal Network Agency. Essential prerequisites for the successful introduction of 5G are thus fulfilled by frequency regulation.

Against this background, the discussion paper shows for the sectors industry, energy and agriculture which radio-based applications are discussed against the background of the technical possibilities of 5G:

In the industry sector, and especially in the context of building private, local 5G campus networks, there are many areas of application requiring 5G connectivity. These include manufacturing and process automation, man-machine interface, logistics and warehousing, and monitoring and maintenance. Nevertheless, the development and testing in practice is still at an early stage due to the not yet complete standard. At present, pilot projects are primarily limited to large industrial companies or scientific institutions that have implemented test laboratories. However, for the success of 5G in the industry sector, it will also be important that a 5G ecosystem is developed and the cost per end device and connectivity are very low.

Due to its geographically widespread application, the energy industry is less a driver than a 5G technology user especially since a nationwide supply of 5G in the 3.6 GHz range is economically difficult and 5G in the 700 MHz band only with regard to latency critical services can stand out from LTE. In the context of 5G, therefore, local usage is discussed, e.g. in substations. Perspectively, however, the 5G system architecture can help decentralize the energy system so that time-critical processes remain in the access network through edge cloud computing, rather than having to go through the full telecom network. The use of 5G is currently preceded by the question of which frequencies are particularly suitable for meeting the specific requirements in distribution grids or at metering operation. The use of 5G also depends on the answer to this question.

In the field of agriculture, concrete projects for 5G applications are still in the process of implementation. There is a real need for the 5G use, for example, in the field of autonomously driving and coordinating vehicles. Other applications, also in combination with AI, can be improved by 5G, but do not require the new standard as a prerequisite. A nationwide coverage with 4G would already be an important step here.

In summary, it is clear that stakeholders in particular sectors are working massively on a 5G ecosystem. This ecosystem depends on many factors, e.g. standardization from the users’ point of view, availability of cost-effective devices and cost-effective 5G connectivity. The next three to four years will show how these parameters work together. How the applications then affect (further) frequency requirements cannot yet be estimated. Currently, it's about the use of today's available frequencies.

From a regulatory point of view, it needs to be examined to what extent the stipulated license fees for campus networks are accepted by the market and do not constitute barriers to market entry. The extent to which the operation of a local 5G network can realistically take place within one year should also be analysed. The innovative step in frequency regulation should not be limited by a too short consideration of implementation periods.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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