Factbox - German industrial giants eye regional 5G licences

BERLIN/FRANKFURT/MUNICH (Reuters) - Top German carmakers and industrial companies are looking to acquire regional licences to run 5G mobile networks, as they plan futuristic connected factories that could help Europe’s largest economy keep its export edge in the digital era.

FILE PHOTO: A logo of 5G technology is pictured at the 5G Mobility Lab of telecommunications company Vodafone in Aldenhoven, Germany, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

The federal network regulator, the BNetzA, will offer regional licences on relatively easy terms for spectrum in the 3.8 Gigahertz and 26 Gigahertz range. This is suited, for example, to building dedicated networks for industrial complexes and research campuses that German companies are developing under the Industrie 4.0 drive to modernise and automate manufacturing.

5G offers data-transmission speeds up to 100 times faster than existing 4G LTE networks, as well as ultra-low latency - or reaction times. It’s also superior to existing local networks that run on Wifi.

The allocation of regional licences will run alongside what is expected to be a competitive nationwide 5G licence auction that could see the entry of a fourth operator in the form of 1&1 Drillisch, a unit of United Internet. Submissions are due on Friday.

“We can’t wait for the network operators to be ready - we are in the midst of Industrie 4.0,” said a spokesman for Siemens, the industrial conglomerate based in Munich.

Here is an overview of companies that say they plan to apply for a regional 5G licence:

VOLKSWAGEN VOWG_p.DE - the world's largest carmaker by volume is planning to apply for 5G spectrum so that it can run networks "inside the factory fence". Volkswagen's premium car unit Audi is already working with Swedish network equipment supplier Ericsson to test a 5G laboratory that is exploring networked, digital production methods.

DAIMLER - the luxury carmaker says it will apply for a regional licence. In partnership with a network provider, it will deploy 5G with a view to implementing “smart” production methods through which equipment and machinery can communicate directly at high speeds and with low latency.

BASF - the German chemicals giant will apply for a local 5G licence as part of its drive to digitalise production. The company has 600,000 networked sensors and other devices at its main production facility in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine, a figure the company says could easily rise tenfold. “That’s why we need 5G,” said a spokeswoman. In addition, staff are being issued with tablets and virtual-reality goggles to guide them on maintenance jobs - another use that works better with 5G.

ROBERT BOSCH [ROBG.UL] - the privately-held automotive supplier will apply for local licences, subject to conditions, to power its production facilities. These would connect robots, automatic transport systems and other production aids such as augmented or virtual reality. Bosch is reviewing whether to run its own 5G networks or to do so with vendor partners.

SIEMENS - the industrial conglomerate says it is interested in acquiring regional 5G licences, for example for its Siemennstadt production facility in Berlin or its plant in Erlangen. 5G is vital to make it possible for the machinery and equipment to communicate directly. Here Siemens offers a platform called Mindsphere that can manage and analyse industrial processes and propose ways to improve efficiency.

Reporting by Jan Schwartz, Ilona Wissenbach, Alexander Hübner, Ludwig Burger and Oliver Hirt; Compiled by Nadine Schimroszik and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Susan Fenton and Jane Merriman