EU Commission greenlights German initiative to eradicate ‘dead spot’ problem

The roll-out will be carried out by the recently established Mobile Infrastructure Company and will focus in particular on underserved regions that either lack a mobile phone connection or only have the 30-year-old 2G access. EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN [CLEMENS BILAN]

The European Commission approved on Tuesday (25 May) the German government’s plan to invest almost €1.1 billion in expanding its network in order to finally get to grips with the smouldering problem of so-called ‘dead spots’. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The government wants to build around 5,000 mobile phone masts in order to eliminate Germany’s dead spot problem.

“We are getting serious about closing the last white spots. Where mobile network operators are not expanding privately and there are no coverage obligations, we are taking the initiative and pushing ahead with the expansion in close cooperation with companies and municipalities,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer.

The mammoth project is urgently needed since the German digitisation index recently pointed out the poor state of the country’s mobile network and called on the government to act.

The problem has been known for a long time. As early as 2018, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told manager magazine in an interview that he had banned his office from connecting him to foreign ministerial colleagues during car journeys. At the time, he explained that he was “embarrassed” by the constant network failures caused by dead spots.

The fact that there is still catching up to do became clear at a Digital Summit event on 18 May. Although Altmaier explained that the number of dead spots has already decreased, asked if he was still embarrassed, he replied: “Yes, but not as much.”

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Driving the network expansion forward

The roll-out will be carried out by the recently established Mobile Infrastructure Company and will focus in particular on underserved regions that either lack a mobile phone connection or only have the 30-year-old 2G access.

The company will administer the €1.1 billion funding to promote the “harmonisation of living conditions in Germany”, said Transport Minister Scheuer.

The Commission also welcomed the German initiative.

“It contributes to bridging the digital divide, to reducing inequalities and to seamless communication,” said Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager. The EU project also complies with EU state aid rules and is in line with the strategic goal of creating a “European Gigabit Society“.

According to Scheuer, the mobile communications funding initiative also aims to drive the 5G network roll-out: “In this way, we are creating uninterrupted phone calls throughout Germany, mobiles working without charging bars and the basis for high-performance mobile communications with 5G,” he said.

EU countries keep different approaches to Huawei on 5G rollout

After the German Bundesrat recently passed the IT-Security Law, things have been looking increasingly grim for Huawei’s expansion in Europe, while a patchwork of different national approaches to the Chinese tech giant has emerged. EURACTIV took a closer look at where various European capitals currently stand on the issues related to the Chinese 5G supplier.

The Franco-German 5G Initiative

A further step towards 5G expansion was initiated by the Franco-German side. Based on the Franco-German Technology Dialogue, which aims to promote European independence in future technologies, the two countries launched a funding programme on Tuesday to accelerate 5G expansion.

The €20 million call for funding aims to trigger synergies between French and German companies with research to strengthen the European ecosystem in 5G telecoms.

“French and German companies can bring their know-how together with the new funding and jointly create flexible and secure 5G solutions in Europe with their products and services,” emphasised Economy Minister Altmaier.

His counterpart, French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, reiterated the importance of Europe’s technological resilience:

“Europe’s technological sovereignty is only possible with more European cooperation. The Franco-German development of a secure 5G infrastructure is a good example of this joint work,” he said.

5G is considered one of the key technologies for Industry 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution that focuses on automation and smart technology. The EU, as part of its Digital Compass, has set itself the goal of providing all populated areas with 5G networks by 2030.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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