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Vodafone Germany and Lufthansa go private for 5G

Vodafone Germany and Lufthansa have launched what they claim is a private 5G network based on standalone technology in an 8,500 square meter aircraft hangar in Hamburg.

While the deployment of a 5G private network is an interesting development, the fact that Vodafone does not own the spectrum which is being used to power the connectivity adds another twist.

In what could turn out to be somewhat of a disruptive move, the German telecoms regulator has been allocating hyper-localised spectrum licenses in the 3.7-3.8 GHz to enterprise and public sector organisations. For the first time, a company might be able to cut the telco out of the loop to satisfy its connectivity needs.

It could have been viewed as a headache, though Vodafone Germany does seem to be embracing the potentially disastrous scenario.

“The German economy needs 5G. We can do 5G,” said Vodafone Germany CEO Hannes Ametsreiter. “As a 5G partner, we want to help our industry to maintain an international top position in the future. Those who focus on new technologies today will be at the forefront tomorrow.

“We support our partners in bringing 5G into everyday industrial life as early as possible. To the factories. In the business parks. And even in airplane hangars. With individual campus networks that we tailor perfectly to the needs of our partners.”

Realistically, this is could be a niche, but profitable market for the telcos. Private networks could span the breadth of a campus or could be nothing more than a few floors on a building, but the customisation and security benefits would be attractive to some. That said, building and operating a network is an expensive business, this is not something which would be applicable to many customers.

At Lufthansa, the hanger is large enough to house four airplanes and the first usecases have been to make use of virtual and augmented reality visualise 3D design data of the planned cabin equipment on tablets and other end devices in empty aircraft fuselages. This is just the first usecase, though there will certainly be more.

Lufthansa has highlighted it is now able to shift the upload and download requirements of the network, CAD data transfer is incredibly demanding on a network, while all of the data is processed within the hanger itself. These sorts of benefits will appeal to some customers.

Germany is one country where the idea of private networks might catch on, thanks to its engineering and manufacturing heritage, though this is likely to be a niche usecase for telcos elsewhere. The threat which has emerged is cutting the telco out of the loop. Equipment can be purchased directly from the manufacturers, integrators and other consultants can be brought in to build and manage the network, while these enterprise organisations already own the spectrum for the area.

Vodafone Germany is proving it can be adaptable as a partner. It is differentiating itself to offer new services to enterprise customers. This might not be a trend which redefines the connectivity industry, but it is an example of how outside parties could come in and steal revenues promised to the telcos. Vodafone Germany was not necessarily needed in this experiment, but collecting managed services revenues is better than nothing.

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7 comments

  1. Avatar John Njoek Foe Tjon 28/02/2020 @ 3:18 am

    Lufthansa is stealing the profit allocate to Telco, in turn they invest heavily in Germany network. That’s stealing business rights. Could be sued. Same like USA stealing Huawei business right in the name of security. My God.

  2. Avatar Bogdan 28/02/2020 @ 6:38 am

    “these enterprise organisations already own the spectrum for the area”
    Will non telco companies afford to purchase 5G spectrum?
    I see this as a waste of money, not efficient.
    The telco company owns the spectrum and can reuse it for many individual companies to offer private networks, isn’t this more efficient?

    • Avatar Gery Verwimp 28/02/2020 @ 3:23 pm

      What then for those use cases where there isn’t sufficient or no telco coverage? Today coverage is tightly linked to the consumer market, while industry has other needs.

      • Avatar Andreas 06/03/2020 @ 1:03 pm

        In Germany the frequency range 3.7 – 3.8 GHz is given for site based local area networks. If you own or rented the real estate site, you can apply for the spectrum. But of course you have to ensure that you fulfil certain emmission limits at the border of your site. Further it is technology neutral.

  3. Avatar Lieven 28/02/2020 @ 4:48 pm

    Doubtfull this is 5G. If it is Nokia DAC then it will probably be LTE technology on a 5G frequency band. Of course it is 5G ready but don’t claim it is a 5G private network.

  4. Avatar Derrick Hales 28/02/2020 @ 8:18 pm

    Hi 5g is extremely dangerous and has not been independently tested and destroys trees bees birds and causes cancer to people and animals. Look at 5G health risks on the internet where their is massive information showing how dangerous it is with 230 scientists worldwide signing a letter stating it should be banned and what more evidence do you need

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