Sponsored By

Faulty towers? Orange rubbishes Germany's 5G DIY scheme

Some German companies want to build their own 5G networks instead of relying on telcos. Good luck with that, says France's Orange.

Iain Morris

April 18, 2019

4 Min Read
Faulty towers? Orange rubbishes Germany's 5G DIY scheme

Car problems can typically be resolved in two ways. The first is to fetch a trained mechanic, spending hard-earned cash on expert help. The second is to mimic Basil Fawlty, the manic, parsimonious hotel manager in the 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers: Drive your car down the road, out of sight of your nagging wife, and do it yourself on the cheap.

Some German industrial groups are taking the Basil Fawlty approach to 5G, as far as parts of the telecom industry are concerned. Instead of addressing connectivity issues in their factories with telco assistance, they plan to put up their own 5G networks, using spectrum the German regulator has helpfully reserved for them.

Figure 1: The Risks of DIY Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese, gives his broken-down car a damn good thrashing. Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese, gives his broken-down car a damn good thrashing.

German operators have already attacked the regulator's spectrum plan like an outraged mechanic whose best tools have been stolen by an amateur. Among other things, they hold it responsible for driving up prices in the spectrum auction currently under way. But now France's Orange has piled in with its own criticisms.

"The challenges of doing it right are a real métier and it needs knowhow and savoir faire," said the multilingual Helmut Reisinger, the CEO of Orange Business Services, during a press conference in Paris this week. "In Germany I hear there are interested parties, but will they really massively invest? We are known in the telco industry as capex-intensive and last year we spent €7.4 billion [$8.3 billion] on capex. Without that you cannot build credible network services that are available for you as a consumer or for Schneider Electric."

The DIY approach to 5G would evidently be a massive speedbump for telcos, which are hopeful that industrial groups will become major 5G customers. If carmakers, chemical companies and other firms go all Basil Fawlty, there could be far less 5G business coming through a telecom operator's doors.

But France's telecom authorities seem to agree with Orange that Germany's spectrum scheme is a bit rubbish. Instead of reserving spectrum for industrial groups, they will attach obligations to 5G spectrum licenses that require telcos to address industrial needs, says Reisinger. "If carriers are not at the rendezvous with these demands after two or three years of implementation, they might reconsider this," he says.

You're invited to attend Light Reading’s Big 5G Event! Formerly the Big Communications Event and 5G North America, Big 5G is where telecom's brightest minds deliver the critical insight needed to piece together the 5G puzzle. We'll see you May 6-8 in Denver -- communications service providers get in free!

Nor have France's industrial giants shown interest in building their own 5G networks. Their preference is to work closely with Orange and France's other telcos on the development of new 5G services. Already, there is huge pressure on Orange to show it can meet their industrial needs. But that is probably better -- from the French operator's perspective -- than the German alternative.

"There is a scarcity of spectrum and if you fragment this you lower the potential of new connectivity," says Arnaud Vamparys, Orange's senior vice president of radio networks. "If you do it separately you will isolate your site from the global network. What we have done is to have a network extension you can use locally for the companies… where we verify that what is in the standard can be used to create services with a private extension on the complete network."

The industry will be watching closely to see how Germany's experiment works out. But if Vamparys is right, it could be a case of faulty towers in Germany's 5G network.

Related posts:

— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Iain Morris

International Editor, Light Reading

Iain Morris joined Light Reading as News Editor at the start of 2015 -- and we mean, right at the start. His friends and family were still singing Auld Lang Syne as Iain started sourcing New Year's Eve UK mobile network congestion statistics. Prior to boosting Light Reading's UK-based editorial team numbers (he is based in London, south of the river), Iain was a successful freelance writer and editor who had been covering the telecoms sector for the past 15 years. His work has appeared in publications including The Economist (classy!) and The Observer, besides a variety of trade and business journals. He was previously the lead telecoms analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, and before that worked as a features editor at Telecommunications magazine. Iain started out in telecoms as an editor at consulting and market-research company Analysys (now Analysys Mason).

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like