Smart cities, lightning-fast mobile downloads, Industry 4.0 – all of this depends on a modern infrastructure. 2019 promises to be the year of 5G, a much needed upgrade for today’s mobile standards that has been eagerly awaited for years. Markus Haas, CEO of Telefónica Germany and a speaker at DLD Munich, explains what makes 5G a game changer and how it ties in with other technologies to shape the future of entire economies.
What benefits will 5G bring?
We are entering a whole new dimension of connectivity with this next generation of mobile networks. For example, users will be able to download entire movies to their smartphones in seconds. But other advantages are even more important, such as higher capacities, less energy consumption and very low latency, meaning response times, which is especially important for Industry 4.0 applications. That said, our existing mobile technology still has a lot of potential and the implementation of 5G will take time. In Germany, for example, there are no 5G smartphones on the market yet, and building the infrastructure will cost billions of euros. Instead of quick shots, we need a clear plan for how to build our 5G networks and how they can be funded.
Who is best positioned to reap the rewards of a modern 5G infrastructure?
Overall, companies that have the most customers and the best applications will be in the best position. The U.S. mobile network operator Verizon recently presented its first 5G smartphone. China started a 5G network in Beijing last year and included the technology as a “strategic emerging industry” in its latest Five-Year-Plan. Nevertheless, I am very optimistic for Germany, because the true potential of 5G lies in industrial applications – things like smart logistics and autonomous factories. Our key industries such as chemicals, automotive and mechanical engineering require 5G to be fit for the future. As long as we set the right course I’m very confident. However, for Germany to stay competitive we do need to make sure that the necessary investments flow into the development of the networks. Frequencies should be distributed free of charge, as in France: There was no auction, but the licenses were issued against clear conditions while the companies committed themselves to certain investment volumes and concrete expansion targets.
How do you see Europe’s position compared with China and the U.S.?
Europe has to stay competitive in all new technologies. This is not only true for 5G but all future technologies like artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain. What is important: These technologies do not stand alone, they are connected to social and political questions. Let’s look at the latest technology developments and ask ourselves: What path should we take as Europeans? Should we follow the U.S. and China in their models of practically unlimited monetization of personal data? I don’t think this would be right. Europe has taken a big step in the right direction with the implementation of its data protection regulation. Other regions, and many multinational companies, are starting to see this as a competitive advantage. Europe is a community of shared values. That is part of our foundation: First-class education, socially stable and free societies as well as a strong sense of values – I believe this is what makes Europe highly competitive.