Telefónica Deutschland CEO favours more cooperation among mobile providers

Cellular antennas on tower

Thorsten Dirks, the CEO of Telefónica Deutschland, made use of an interview with a German newspaper to highlight how greater cooperation among mobile network operators will be necessary to meet the challenges of building and operating the mobile networks of the future.

Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung, Dirks said the question for 5G networks in German cities is whether transmitters from all three MNOs -- O2 Germany, Vodafone Germany and Telekom Deutschland -- should hang from every lamppost, or whether there should only be one transmitter in place.

In fact, the way that operators work today needs a complete rethink, in his view. He indicated that this requires a new regulatory regime that provides greater freedom for MNOs to collaborate both within Germany and the European Union.

Telefónica Deutschland certainly has considerable experience in terms of managing multiple mobile networks: the operator has already acquired and integrated the E-Plus network, for example, and also recently sold 2,350 wireless towers to Telxius -- Telefónica group's mobile towers units.

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"I am someone who sees the power of the market,” added Dirks. But he believes that the structures still need to be created to enable Europe to become a global leader in the provision of broadband services. That in turn requires a solution that is both politically and economically viable, he said.

Future 5G networks will certainly create new challenges if they are to meet requirements for must faster speeds and very low latency.

The recent NGMN Industry Conference and Exhibition in Germany last week highlighted some of the progress that has already been made in the march towards 5G.

Indeed, an early 5G standard -- which will be anchored to existing 4G networks -- could be completed by December 2017. However, chief concerns include the possible fragmentation of the market if some operators move ahead earlier than others, while leading executives such as Vodafone Group CTO Johan Wibergh are worried that the technology is being over-hyped.

As ever, spectrum remains at the top of the agenda in any discussion on 5G, with both low-frequency and high-frequency bands deemed crucial for future coverage and services. The dream of a globally harmonised band is far from a reality, however: participants in a panel at the NGMN conference indicated that this may be a goal that is hard to achieve, suggesting that regional harmonisation is more attainable.