Germany's telecoms regulator has issued draft 5G auction rules that 'open the door' for operators to work together to improve rural coverage.
The Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) stopped short of proposing mandatory national roaming – the possibility of which has caused consternation among the country's telcos – but said players should have the option to strike deals that ultimately lead to better performance in underserved areas.
"It is not legally possible to oblige network operators to make their networks available to other providers, so we say very clearly that companies need to negotiate," said BNetzA president Jochen Homann, in a statement.
Germany aims to auction spectrum in the 2GHz and 3.6GHz bands next spring. Under BNetzA's draft rules, winners will be required to deliver at least 100-Mbps downlink speeds to 98% of households by the end of 2022. By 2022, they must also deliver 100-Mbps speeds to major roads and 50-Mbps speeds on busy rail lines. Successful bidders must also deploy at least 500 5G base stations, and commission 500 5G base stations to provide 100-Mbps coverage in underserved areas.
Despite proposing coverage obligations, BNetzA said the focus of the 5G auction is more on capacity than reach, due to the propagation characteristics of the airwaves going under the hammer.
"The frequencies we are now awarding are capacity frequencies with short ranges," Homann said. "In the next few years, we will be awarding additional frequencies, particularly those that are better-suited to covering a wide area."
The draft rules will now be reviewed by the watchdog's advisory board, which will give its opinion on 24 September. The rules are due to be finalised in November.