No. 425: Internet of Things and Spectrum Policy Challenges

No. 425: Internet of Things and Spectrum Policy Challenges – Spectrum demand for M2M communication services and spectrum policy recommendations

(full version only available in German)

Authors: Bernd Sörries, Lorenz Nett


The Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will become increasingly important in the future. It is expected that such applications will be used in various industries. In the automotive industry, this will be in the implementation of autonomous driving and automatic production process control. In the energy sector, IoT plays an important role in the implementation of the digitalization of the energy transition, for example in the form of smart grids and smart meters.

Many IoT applications are based on wireless communication. This requires the use of frequencies via which the data can be transmitted. For this purpose, the respective user in Germany requires frequency usage rights granted by the Federal Network Agency and which are in conformity with European and international agreements on the terms of use. Currently, IoT and M2M communication primarily uses narrowband applications. This only requires frequencies that are generally allocated in Germany. Technical standards used for this are Bluetooth or WiFi. In the future, the demands on transmission technologies will increase in terms of latency, indoor coverage, blackout etc. For particularly critical applications, it may therefore be necessary that high quality frequencies in low frequency ranges are required and that the exclusivity of the right of use is required in order to ensure investment and planning security and to be able to guarantee the required properties for the respective applications. Other IoT applications that are only temporarily and spatially limited active and have less stringent technical requirements may also be able to cover their frequency requirements under a frequency-sharing regime in mid-range frequencies.

The challenge for the spectrum management authorities at national and European level is to identify frequency ranges in which IoT applications should be allowed as well as to establish appropriate frequency usage conditions and effective frequency assignment regimes. In view of the large number of technical standards, some of which are still under development, and a large number of possible applications, with differing requirements and a high degree of uncertainty regarding the development of actual demand, the framework conditions for this are very complex. In this discussion paper, the current situation with regard to IoT applications and their requirements, current technical standards for enabling IoT applications and potential demand trends are presented in an indicative manner. At the same time, measures at the European level are cited to accompany the process of diffusion of IoT. These are not limited to radio spectrum policy measures, although this is a primary focus. Against this background, current radio spectrum policy initiatives and measures with a view to IoT are presented at the European level. We will also present in more detail the spectrum policy initiatives and approaches to promote M2M services in the UK. Subsequently, specific radio spectrum policy challenges for the Federal Network Agency with a view to IoT will be discussed.

Discussion Paper is available for download.

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