Regulator plans to award 450 MHz band to energy suppliers

The Federal Network Agency wants to reserve the contested frequencies in the 450 MHz band for supply network operators. This emerges from a draft for the upcoming tender for the spectrum usage rights, which the regulatory authority published on Wednesday. The authority provides “that the frequencies for nationwide use are primarily used to supply critical infrastructures”.

The Federal Network Agency understands “critical infrastructures” primarily as supply networks. “The frequencies in the 450 MHz range are particularly well suited for setting up a nationwide, highly available and at the same time fall-proof radio network infrastructure for controlling supply networks,” says Jochen Homann, President of the Federal Network Agency. The draft consultation can be submitted in writing until 28 August 2020.

The former C-network frequencies are currently assigned to Deutsche Telekom and 450connect GmbH. The latter is a subsidiary of the Dutch network operator Alliander and already offers on the frequencies Radio networks for electricity network operators on. Telekom used to use the tape to connect its hotspots on ICE trains, but is now reported to have rented it out. The current usage rights expire at the end of the year and are now to be reassigned quickly.

The previous division of the frequencies into three blocks of 2 × 1.25 MHz each should not continue according to the draft. Instead, the regulatory authority wants to award the entire spectrum to just one licensee, who can then use 2 × 4.74 MHz. The frequencies are to be awarded in a tendering process; an auction like the mobile radio frequencies is not planned. The company that is already operating the desired services on the frequencies should offer itself in a tender.

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU) would like these frequencies to remain available to the energy industry. With the spectrum, the power grid operators could on the one hand monitor and control the grid operation, and on the other hand the frequencies are also suitable for networking intelligent electricity meters in households. The Ministry of Economic Affairs even makes the success of the “digitization of the energy transition” dependent on the frequencies.

But Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer (CSU) has also registered claims to the spectrum: A secure broadband network is “indispensable for the police, fire service, rescue workers and the Bundeswehr”. In response to a request from the Greens, the Federal Government also considers it possible that the police, fire service and other auxiliaries may also operate “basic services such as a messenger service” in the 450 MHz band.

However, the Federal Network Agency has not taken the security authorities into account in its draft. As a precaution, the regulatory authority points out that “the procedure is subject to a different decision by the federal government”. That means: Seehofer and Altmaier have to fight it out. One way out could be that, according to the Federal Ministry of Transport, frequencies in the 700 MHz band are already available to the security authorities, but have not yet been used.


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