Digitalization is probably the most radical change of our time. New technologies and services penetrate nearly every part of everyday life and the economy. Therefore, providing universal coverage with high-performance broadband connections in our country and, in a further step, the necessary roll-out of gigabit networks are basic prerequisites for economic growth and rising prosperity.
From the digital towards the gigabit society
Information and communications technology opens up important opportunities for people and businesses in Germany: new ways of living together and collaborating, better opportunities for social participation and more economic success. In order to fully exhaust the potential inherent in digitalization in Germany, a constant and close dialogue between citizens, academia and industry is required. Only then can we achieve our objective of securing Germany’s position as the world’s leading location for innovation and technology.
Federal Programme for Funding the Roll-Out of Broadband
The Internet is one of the most significant changes in the information system since the invention of the printing press. This change has a direct impact on our everyday lives. But even more than two decades after the commercialization of the World Wide Web, there are people in Germany who have limited access to the Internet. Especially in predominantly rural regions of Germany, there are still deficits in high-speed Internet coverage.
To change this situation, the Federal Government decided in 2014 in its Digital Agenda to roll out high-performance networks providing universal coverage. Not only the households, but also the economy can benefit from this. It is especially in the interest of regions with poor coverage to progress the roll-out of broadband, as a region without access to high-speed Internet will become less attractive to enterprises.
High-speed Internet for Germany
With the first Federal Programme for Funding the Roll-Out of Broadband, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure supports municipalities and rural districts in areas where coverage is inadequate and where the private sector is unlikely to upgrade the network in the next three years. For this purpose, the Federal Cabinet already decided in October 2015 to provide financial assistance to support the broadband roll-out in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The overarching objective is that there should be high-speed Internet with at least 50 Mbit/s throughout Germany by 2018. But this is just an intermediate target: over the next few years, the demand for even faster broadband connections will increase exponentially.
Billions of euros worth of funding
In its Digital Agenda 2014-2017, the Federal Government has already identified a large number of projects that have been constantly progressed. The Federal Programme for Funding the Roll-Out of Broadband is the most prominent project of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. It is also the financially strongest of the Digital Agenda's core remits.
The Federal Government is providing funding currently totalling approximately 4 billion euros for the implementation of broadband roll-out projects. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure distributes these funds among the districts and municipalities and provides grants totalling up to 70 percent of the investment sum. The highest amount that can be granted to a local authority is 15 million euros per project.
Demand remains strong
The approval of the 4th call of the financial assistance programme is currently underway. A continuation of the programme on a permanent basis is intended. In addition, a Special Programme for Business Areas was launched in January 2017. This programme provides funds exclusively for the coverage of business areas with fibre optics. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has reserved 350 million euros for this purpose. Funding applications can be submitted on the website www.breitbandausschreibungen.de.
Status quo of the broadband roll-out in Germany
Would you like to know if your town is benefitting from the federal funding programme? Then it is worthwhile to have a look at the Federal Government’s Broadband Atlas. The Broadband Atlas is the central information medium on broadband coverage in Germany and is continuously updated by TÜV Rheinland on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. It has been created in order to make high-speed Internet coverage transparent for all citizens in Germany. The Atlas does not only indicate the broadband availability for households in the individual regions, districts, towns or cities as a percentage; it can also show you where mobile broadband, broadband connections in business areas and WiFi hotspots are available in your immediate vicinity.
The interactive maps of the Broadband Atlas offer various options for finding the desired information on available technologies and bandwidths. The search function allows users to retrieve information directly by entering the name of cities and streets or postal codes. You can also use a zoom function to explore the whole of Germany in the Atlas.
The Broadband Atlas can be found at www.breitbandatlas.de. You can also access all information by smartphone or tablet while on the move. However, it is only available in German.
White areas are disappearing
Inadequately covered areas are shown as white areas in the Broadband Atlas. But the number of these areas is decreasing. Thanks to the efforts undertaken by the Federal Government, more and more citizens can benefit from high-speed Internet. At the moment, more than 75 percent of German households have access to Internet connections with speeds of 50 Mbit/s or more. The LTE mobile communications standard now reaches even more than 95 percent of households. And even faster direct fibre-optic connections (FTTB/H) are already available to about 7 percent of German households.
Nowadays, cellphones and smartphones do not only serve as user devices for mobile communications with family and friends. With new technologies and services, they influence our everyday lives and change, among other things, the way we set up our homes, how we learn, how we do shopping, how we search for information or how we contact authorities and businesses. A prerequisite for this is to be able to be mobile.
No construction of roads without fibre-optic cables
Everywhere in Germany, we can find conduits below ground that are not yet used for fibre-optic cables. To accelerate the roll-out of digital high-speed networks in Germany, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat both adopted the Act to facilitate the Deployment of High-Speed Digital Networks, referred to as DigiNetzG, which was prepared by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. In the future, when new roads are constructed or areas are developed for building new houses, fibre-optic cables must be laid at the same time. This also applies when developing new business areas. Here, the fibre-optic cables are to be laid to every building. The Act also governs the use of the existing infrastructure. In the future, free capacities of existing energy and sewage systems for roads, railways and waterways can be co-used for the installation of fibre-optic cables and other transmission technologies. As construction works can be better coordinated thanks to the DigiNetzG, it will be easier to avoid expensive and lengthy duplication of work on roads in the future. This will also significantly reduce the costs for the network operators. According to experts, this may save billions of euros.
Efficient and standardized construction works
A central point of information at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and a national dispute resolution office at the Federal Network Agency will facilitate the speedy implementation of the broadband roll-out. To this end, the already existing Federal Network Agency’s Infrastructure Atlas will be upgraded to a comprehensive information tool. The Infrastructure Atlas contains spatial data about infrastructure in Germany which can generally be co-used for the roll-out of broadband networks and for increasing the transmission capacities of existing networks. These networks include, for example, existing fibre-optic cables, conduits, radio masts and microwave links.
Gigabit society (outlook)
Germany’s way towards the gigabit society
Also in the next few years, society, economy and politics will be characterized by digitalization. The progress in information and communications technology will increasingly impact all areas of our lives and will allow the creation of applications which, from a present-day perspective, might still seem futuristic.
The driving forces behind these rapid developments are numerous fields of application, above all Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, eHealth, the linking-up of the world of work and telework as well as currently in particular new media technology and new forms of media consumption, for example via streaming services.
What will the gigabit society of the future actually look like? About one thing there can be no doubt: the progress will not be limited to ever-accelerating transfer rates. People, machines, things and processes will be seamlessly interlinked. The industrial use of the Internet will present numerous new challenges for the networks. Fields of application, such as industry 4.0 and automated and connected driving, require that data can be exchanged between machines reliably and in real time. Applications in the fields of media and education, in contrast, are less time-sensitive. But these will require the network infrastructure of the gigabit society to provide very high bandwidths for ultra high definition video streaming and 360° virtual reality applications. Due to the numerous fields of application, future network infrastructure will have to be capable of fulfilling various requirements, or it must be possible to upgrade it to meet these requirements.
Schedule for the roll-out of gigabit networks by 2025
With the Gigabit Germany initiative for the future, Federal Minister Alexander Dobrindt, together with the Network Alliance for a Digital Germany, adopted Germany’s way towards the gigabit society in March 2017. This strategy paper was preceded by the publication of a study commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure entitled Network Infrastructures for the Gigabit Society, which was conducted by Fraunhofer FOKUS.
The objective set down in the initiative for the future is the roll-out of converged gigabit-ready networks in order to ensure that Germany will have the required infrastructure for the deployment of gigabit applications by 2025. This goal is to be achieved in four phases of deployment:
Gigabit networks as drivers of digital growth
The Gigabit Germany initiative for the future defines how Federal Government and industry want to advance the roll-out of converged gigabit-ready networks in Germany in a targeted manner. Within the framework of this initiative for the future, the essential milestones for rolling out the networks, for activities of the telecommunications industry and for key support measures of the Federal Government are presented.
However, the way towards the gigabit society cannot be considered at a purely national level. For this reason, the Gigabit Germany initiative for the future takes up the European objectives in the field of gigabit connectivity as well as the legislative proposals on this basis. The objective of comprehensive gigabit connectivity takes centre stage also at European level.
The convergence of gigabit networks
The intensities of use of the different applications are undergoing increasing differentiation. Therefore, in the future, more emphasis will have to be put on the diversity of applications and the requirements to be met by the network. At the same time, the difference between mobile communications and fixed land-line network is becoming less relevant and the transmission technologies are growing together - the result is the converged network.
The fifth generation mobile communications standard
Did you know that mobile communications technology has already existed in Germany for several decades? As early as in 1958, there were the first analogue phones that allowed mobile communications. However, at that point of time, the mobile phone still filled a car boot and calls were generally transferred by switchboard girls. The current fourth generation (4G) has been specially designed for mobile data applications. The fifth mobile communications generation (5G) is planned for around 2020. Thanks to more bandwidth and new frequency ranges, transfer rates will again increase many times over. But what is so different about this new network?
Higher, faster, shorter
This time, faster is not sufficient: the 5G mobile communications standard will be an essential component of future gigabit networks. Because of the many different fields of application, the mobile communications technology will no longer only be important for communication between individuals. In the future, not only people but also objects, machines and sensors will be interconnected and communicate with each other. The current response times (the so-called latencies) of 80 to 120 milliseconds are to be shortened to less than ten milliseconds and, in the long-term, even to one millisecond. This will enable real-time reactions for the first time. Then, mobile user devices will not only serve as transmitters and receivers but also as communicating connected nodes. Thus, in the future, the devices will be able to directly exchange data among themselves without the involvement of central network units (Device to Device Communications). Such fast response times can be used to enable automated and connected transport. With 5G, your vehicle can communicate with other vehicles and will be able to warn you of any dangers in real time.
5G - starting signal for the digital real-time era
On 27 September 2016, Federal Minister Dobrindt launched the 5 Steps toward 5G mobile communications initiative during the 5G conference in Berlin. A 5G dialogue forum was initialised as well, supported by the 5G focus group of the Digital Networks and Intelligent Mobility Digital Summit platform. It brings together telecommunications companies and user industries from the health, industry and logistics sectors to jointly integrate themselves into the standardization and research process for 5G. Only in this way can Germany become a lead market for 5G and the first country to provide universal 5G coverage.
Innovations like automated and connected driving, Industry 4.0 or eHealth result in a massive growth in the amount of data. But the digital economy can only develop where this growing amount of data can be retrieved. The new 5G mobile communications standard permits the reliable transfer of large amounts of data - with up to 20 gigabit per second and latencies of less than one millisecond. Thus, 5G is becoming a digital key technology in this era of interconnection. We want Germany to become a lead market for 5G and the first country to provide universal 5G coverage.
With 5G towards the gigabit society
Future requirements to be met by mobile communications in a totally interlinked society will be much more comprehensive than in the past. The mobile communications network must become more efficient to be able to meet the ambitious quality requirements of the future regarding availability and latency as well as the rising need for more bandwidth.
The LTE networks available today in Germany are far from sufficient to meet the exponentially growing demand in the long run. Due to automated and connected driving, the Internet of Things, modern government (eGovernment), new forms of working and media consumption as well as Industry 4.0, the demand for (real-time) data and higher data rates will continue to rise. Therefore, efforts are underway to evolve existing mobile communications standards and to introduce the next mobile communications generation (5G). The new 5G mobile communications standard will pave the way for the mobile gigabit society.
The stage for the further development of the next mobile communications generation was already set at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva in November 2015 with the participation of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. At the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2019, sufficient frequency spectrum is to be identified and allocated for 5G in order to make sure that 5G can reach commercial maturity by 2020.
Some practical functionalities are already being set up and trialled today on a digital test bed on the A9 motorway - a "laboratory with real-life conditions". Especially near 5G technologies with a significantly shorter response time (around 20 ms) than normal LTE networks are used here. Further test beds are currently being planned.
A 5G map at www.bmvi.de/5G shows first 5G projects of enterprises and higher education institutions in Germany.
|Mobile communication standard||Introduction||Capabilities|
|1st generation (1G)||C network (1985)||mobile voice communication (analogue)|
|2nd generation (2G)||D networks (1991) and E networks (1994)||mobile voice communication (digital), sending of text messages|
|3rd generation (3G)||2001 until the emergence of the first smartphones (2007)||mobile Internet, multimedia messaging, emails, Voice over IP (VoIP) and television|
|4th generation (4G)||2010||mobile broadband applications, telephony over IP, mobile online gaming and cloud computing|
|5th generation (5G)||2020 (expected)||real-time communications between mobile user devices and machines|