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Lawmakers join German chorus of disapproval over 5G auction draft

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BERLIN (Reuters) – German lawmakers questioned the proposed terms of a 5G mobile licence auction on Monday, adding to criticism of the network regulator by Germany’s big-three mobile operators

The companies say the costs and conditions of the early 2019 spectrum auction are too onerous, even though Germany’s telecoms regulator has pushed back against calls from politicians to require them to provide coverage across the country.

The BNetzA will wrap up a consultation period next month before presenting its final plans to its advisory board in November. The board, made up of elected lawmakers, can express its opinion on the plan but does not have the power to veto it.

“I seriously doubt that this draft can serve as the basis to fire the starting pistol for the 5G network buildout,” Ulrich Lange, deputy chairman of the conservative parliamentary group behind Chancellor Angela Merkel, said after a meeting of the advisory council of the BNetzA.

The technology, which promises faster data speeds and lower reaction times, or latency, could be used to run connected factories, enable telemedicine or guide self-driving cars.

But, in the first 5G auction round, BNetzA president Jochen Homann wants to sell ‘capacity’ frequencies ideal for powering industrial campuses but not suited to providing nationwide network coverage, because of their relatively short range.

Longer-range frequencies could be auctioned in later licensing rounds, says the BNetzA, which is reluctant to tweak the auction terms out of concerns that it could end up facing a legal challenge.

The auction build-up has been marked by clashes over whether it should enable the entry of a fourth operator to challenge Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland.

(Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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