The German government’s plan to spend €1 billion ($1.1 billion) erecting 5,000 wireless masts to plug gaps in the country’s 4G network became all too apparent on public ARD television Monday.
Reporter Kristin Becker, standing outside Meseberg Palace, an official cabinet retreat, 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Berlin, was cut short by what ARD’s news studio in Hamburg described as a “dead patch” (Funkloch) as she described aversions in some communities to more and more high radio frequencies being utilized for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
“Unfortunately, the connection has broken off,” said midday presenter Claus-Erich Boetzke apologetically and introduced the next topic on Germany’s high-profile Tagesschau news broadcast.
Benefits for IT-savvy farmers?
Earlier on Monday, Merkel’s chancellery chief Helga Braun had told ZDF Morgenmagazin — Germany’s second federal channel — that farmers “on their paddocks” would also benefit from the rollout of 5G.
A digital strategy paper discussed by cabinet at Meseberg called for a “communications initiative” to win “more understanding” for wireless networks from from skeptical residents worried about purported risks to their health.
Braun admitted that Germany’s auction of the UMTS service to commercial operators in 2000, part of the older, slower 3G network, had proven insufficient, despite the erection so far of cell phone and wireless masts at some 74,000 locations nationwide.
‘Fundamental’ improvement promised
The government now recognized there were areas where sparse population densities ruled out subscriber-paid networks in terms of market economics, he said.
Therefore the government would step in, Braun said, promising a “fundamental” improvement of the area-wide coverage within the next two years.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer on Sunday said German must boost its digital pace. Existing applications to erect 1,000 extra masts were stuck because of objections in procedures administered by local bodies and counties.
On the widely-subscribed Speedtest Global Index in October, Germany ended up placed 38th for average fixed broadband Internet traffic and 44th for its mobile networks.
Geographic coverage, aim not just for populations
Opposition Left party spokeswomen Anke Domscheit-Berg told Deutschlandfunk public radio the federal government should aim to plug geographic gaps, and not just use a population-based criteria of reaching 99% of all households nationwide.
Under that criteria, Cabinet’s one-billion-euro initiative would still leave one million “village” residents out of reach, asserted Domscheit-Berg, an information technology expert.
Opposition Greens co-leader Robert Habeck said during bidding commercial operators should have been required to ensure that telephone users could roam from one cell-phone mast to the next without loss of signal.
ipj/aw (dpa, Reuters)