Deutsche Telekom expects to manage most private 5G networks at 3.7-3.8 GHz, too
Deutsche Telekom expects, in most cases, to manage private networks for enterprises, even if they are deployed in privately-owned spectrum, which is not licensed directly by the operator itself.
Following its deal with BMW last month to install a dual-slice private LTE ‘campus network’ at the car maker’s production plant in Leipzig, using spectrum hived off its own public LTE network, the German operator told Enterprise IoT Insights it expects to be involved in the management of most private networks for enterprises, regardless of the spectrum they use.
Asked directly, whether its expectation is to also manage enterprise networks in privately-owned spectrum, the company responded: “Yes. We offer to manage campus networks, either with our frequencies, or with the industry spectrum. We can offer both.”
A spokesperson added: “Only large enterprises seem to be interested in [their] ‘own’ networks. But all of them need to have a technology partner, whether to build or operate the network. Mobile networks are very complex and specific know-how is required to build a mobile network.”
It replayed the line from Hannover Messe 2019, a year ago, where the company made clear the role of network management is no mean feat. Private networks are easy to talk about, but hard to manage, it said, swatting away the perceived jeopardy for operators in the industrial 5G debate.
The market will split at the beginning, Herbert Schüttler, vice president of 5G corporate customers at Deutsche Telekom, told Enterprise IoT Insights at the time. “Large enterprises like BMW and Siemens might be ready to run their own networks, perhaps,” he said.
“But there are lots of mid-sized manufacturers that don’t want anything to do with the running of mobile networks. In Germany, there might be 20, maybe 30, companies that will manage networks on their own. None of the others want to do it.”
The new arrangement with BMW in Leipzig is purely exploratory, for now. It does not utilize the privately-licensed 3.7-3.8 GHz band, initially, which the government in Germany has made available to local enterprises for standalone network operations running independently of public LTE and 5G networks.
The German allocation works much like the 3.55-3.7 GHz CBRS band in the US and the 3.8-4.2 GHz band in the UK, which have been refarmed as part of a movement by the big industrial powers to make dedicated 5G spectrum available for their industrial engines. German industrial giants including Bosch, Siemens, Volkswagen, and Lufthansa have all confirmed private 5G licences at 3.7-3.8 GHz in Germany.
BMW has refused, as yet, to confirm it has applied for and received a private licence at 3.7-3.8 GHz, but has been clear about its ambition with 5G, and has been trail-blazing in China with 5G from China Unicom since 2019, via its BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture. Deutsche Telekom has also refused to comment on its partner’s strategy around 3.7-3.8 GHz.
Deutsche Telekom is working with Ericsson, its preferred go-to-market supplier for industrial LTE and 5G gear, on a 5G dual-slice solution that integrates the 3.7-3.8 GHz ‘industry spectrum’. They are also working on an offer for private 5G networks without connection to the public network, it said. Joint customer tests are planned for later in the year.
These new hybrid private 5G networks will incorporate higher control and reliability functions, as set down in the ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) specifications for standalone (SA) 5G in Releases 16 and 17, due later in 2020 and in 2021, respectively. On paper, URLLC promises latency of 1ms.
A spokesperson said: “We are currently working on solutions to evolve our campus network offerings to 5G – including our cooperation with Ericsson to develop a private-only 5G solution on 5G SA architecture, which would leverage that technology’s capabilities to enable advanced use cases for industries with mission critical latency requirements.
“We aim to start customer tests with the technology in 2020 that can be implemented on customers’ privately-licensed spectrum (3.7-3.8 GHz). We cannot give any more details at the moment.”
Deutsche Telekom explained the logic of its so-called ‘campus network’ strategy, combining public networks with private slices, or indeed industry spectrum, is to enable a more complete solution for industrialists, which roams seamlessly in and out of factories and warehouses, where the private slice / network is most viable.
“Enterprises will define the use cases according to their requirements, tests and pilots. We believe that for certain use cases that require connectivity starting on the campus and on leaving the campus, for example involving third party suppliers, they will be well served by the public slice, be it over LTE or 5G NR,” the company told Enterprise IoT Insights.
“For those use cases that are implemented strictly on campus, such as AGVs in intra-logistics, the enterprise customer may have specific security requirements and require that their data stay on the campus. They will therefore be served over the private slice, be it LTE – or on 5G NSA when we will have products on those technologies.
“The dual-slice combined public and private slices will be managed by DT – and devices will be either connected to the public or private slice, but not both. And we believe that with this unique combination, we can support more customer use cases. It is not on our roadmap to introduce a dual-slice product combining a public slice with a private 5G SA slice.”
The perceived revolution for the telecoms industry with industrial 5G is not just that the world will go from seven million public cell sites to 15 million private cell sites, as the market has guessed, but that it will go from a handful of networks per country to many millions of them, potentially. Anyone can be an operator, now, the market said.
In Hanover last year, Schüttler sought to play down this existential threat to operators – from enterprises going alone on spectrum and networks, and the telco equivalent of a do-it-yourself punk ethos that says, ‘Here are three chords, go form a band.’
He commented: “Yes, it looks like a kind of competition, on one side. But if you look again, it is a chance for all of us. Because we are talking to the guys at Bosch and Siemens. There is no problem. We are organised [together] in 5G-ACIA (the alliance for connected industries). And the first thing is to bring together the IT and OT industries. Because, at the moment, the language around quality-of-service and reliability is quite different,” he reflected.
It is the same with the network vendors, he said, despite their aggressive line on going direct to industry to deploy private networks; Deutsche is working with Ericsson, Huawei, and Nokia, inside and outside of 5G-ACIA, he said. He repeated that private networks running in 3.7-3.8 GHz spectrum in Germany, which the local regulator has reserved for local enterprises, will not serve.
“Yes, it is possible these industrial players will build their own networks. But one spectrum band alone will not solve all of their problems. Because the propagation characteristics of low and high frequencies are very different. One piece of high frequency won’t cover it.”