Discussion Papers

No. 443: Infrastructure Sharing and 5G: Requirements for Regulation, new competitive constellations (July 2019)

Authors: Lorenz Nett, Bernd Sörries

(full version only available in German)


With the new 5G mobile communications standard, a new eco-system for a wide range of broadband services is being created. In the past, the frequencies for wireless network access ("mobile radio frequencies") were primarily used to offer mass market services. However, the functional and technical features of 5G now allow the development of new business areas outside the mass market. Due to the radio characteristics of 5G, high-quality services can be generated with regard to latency time, data transmission rates, reliability, etc. The 5G service is also available in the form of a high quality service. 5G thus becomes interesting for a number of business customers from various sectors of the economy in which 5G can be used for mobile machine-to-machine communications and also for critical mobile communications. Some 5G applications require nationwide coverage and availability of adequate 5G networks.

As a result, an increasing density of transmission sites can be expected. However, a view of the sales development in mobile communications shows that this has been stagnating for years, so that mobile network operators will either have to identify new sources of revenue and/or reduce the costs of network expansion in order to refinance the expected investments. This leads to the forecast that infrastructure sharing will gain in importance in Germany through the joint use of passive and possibly also active elements. There is even discussion as to whether, in addition to the possibilities of voluntary infrastructure sharing, mandatory sharing of network elements could also take place, for example in order to improve the supply of mobile, high-quality data services in underserved areas or in areas where it is de facto impossible to duplicate infrastructures. Such shared use in areas where the number of users is so low that several parallel infrastructures are not used to capacity could also contribute to a considerable reduction in costs and relieve the economic pressure on mobile network operators.

In this study, the topic of infrastructure sharing will be considered and discussed from different perspectives (technical, economic, regulatory). First of all, we will deal with the demand for mobile broadband services and the resulting revenue potentials, since investments in new infrastructures have to be justified from a business point of view. The aim here is to find out which factors influence the roll-out of mobile networks and thus infrastructure sharing. Thereafter, theoretical approaches to infrastructure sharing will become the focus of attention. In this context, the main regulatory and business aspects of infrastructure sharing are also examined. On this basis, infrastructure sharing in selected countries (Sweden, Austria and Great Britain) will be examined. Finally, the concrete potentials of infrastructure sharing in Germany come into focus. The paper ends with a conclusion. It can be noted that passive infrastructure sharing is widespread and seems unproblematic from a regulatory point of view. A mandatory active sharing requirement seems counterproductive.

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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