Germany is going its own way on important technology regulation issues, encouraging early technology adoption, protecting data and preserving infrastructure competition. In so doing, it may also be providing itself with economic and geopolitical advantages.
Germany telecoms regulator
On issues of 5G, personal data and telecoms security, Germany is blazing an independent regulatory path. It is creating a pattern of moderate activism that could both benefit the country and influence other regulators in the EU and beyond. In doing so, it often improves its own geopolitical and economic competitiveness.
On 5G, the country has set aside spectrum for the enterprise market, paving the way for “private 5G” use cases such as factory automation, robust fixed wireless access for corporate campuses, or limited-area autonomous vehicles.
German telcos don’t like the move, fearing that taking a chunk of spectrum out of their hands will force them to bid too much for the remaining bands, driving costs up and squeezing the funds needed for network upgrades.
As a national policy, though, the move has promise. Because 5G wireless networks will not be deployed widely for several more years, encouraging enterprises to implement their own coverage will bring them the benefits of 5G more quickly.
5G’s improved bandwidth, stability, latency, and network slicing abilities should enable increased automation, including robotics and other IoT use cases that will improve safety and efficiency. These improvements will benefit not only large companies but Germany’s Mittelstand, the mid-sized enterprises that are the heart of the country’s industrial power.
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By helping these companies to experiment with 5G’s capabilities before national networks are in place, Germany may also benefit from a head start in 5G innovation.
On the data front, Germany is continuing its focus on privacy by ordering Facebook to stop aggregating data from its WhatsApp subsidiary into its main site. The regulator cited not only consumer consent concerns, but anti-monopoly ones as well: allowing large companies to roll up independent stores of customer data could dampen competition and innovation in much the same way that rolling up all the companies in a given market category does.
Germany and Huawei
Finally, in one of the biggest ongoing technology stories, Germany is resisting calls from the US and its allies to ban Chinese infrastructure vendors Huawei and ZTE fearing they could act as tools of Chinese intelligence agencies.
Instead, the country takes the reasonable view that all suppliers of this critical national infrastructure should be subject to oversight and testing – although uncoordinated statements on the matter suggest that discussion continues within the German government.
As with enterprise 5G spectrum, this approach could help the country in more than one way: in addition to preserving robust competition and encouraging more secure networks and data centres, it could also make Germany a global leader in infrastructure security testing, especially as Brexit makes the EU less likely to accept the Huawei security monitoring carried out in the UK.