The ‘digital awakening’ of Germany is in full swing as the digital ministry presented its strategy on Wednesday (13 July) for all households and businesses to be connected to the fibre optic network by 2030 – and half by 2025.
The strategy presented by Digital and Transport Minister Volker Wissing aims to triple the number of connections and ensure all households and businesses in cities and rural areas benefit from the latest mobile phone standard and are connected to the fibre-optic network by 2030.
Half should already be connected by the end of 2025, he said, in both cities and rural areas.
“With our gigabit strategy, we want to achieve the digital awakening for Germany. Home office, streaming in the ICE (German intercity rail network) and reception in the mountain hut must finally be possible without any problems,” said Wissing in a public statement.
The telecommunications industry pledged to invest €50 billion in private-sector fibre-optic expansion in the coming years. In regions where commercial expansion is not worthwhile, the state will provide public subsidies.
“Above all, it is about bringing a new dynamic into the expansion and reducing bureaucratic hurdles. To this end, planning and approval procedures will be simplified and accelerated, and the use of alternative installation methods will be improved,” Maximilian Funke-Kaiser, the digital policy spokesman for the liberal FDP’s parliamentary group, told EURACTIV.
Currently, the process of obtaining a permit for broadband expansion takes up to four months.
To standardise and speed up the application process nationwide, digital portals are to be made available to all federal states by the end of 2022, which will forward applications without interruption. Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate are already working on pilot projects to gain initial best-practice experience.
However, according to the Greens, it is particularly important that digitalisation also helps save resources. For this, nationwide stable and gigabit-capable internet connections are crucial, urged Maik Außendorf, the party’s spokesperson for digital policy, and Tabea Rößner, chairperson of the digital committee.
The strategy also plans for the launch of a new gigabit land registry to securely bundle and make available relevant information for faster rollout. The registry, which will make it possible to view existing digital infrastructures, coverage levels, projects and available properties, will be set up by the Federal Network Agency.
However, according to the digital association Bitkom, the idea to have a property database for network expansion is being proposed too late. New information requests will also mean more bureaucracy for companies, even though the strategy promises less red tape, the trade association stressed.
The digital and transport ministry has also commissioned an impact analysis on where private sector expansion is necessary and where government subsidies are needed.
However, the Federation of German Industries has warned that state-subsidised expansion and private-sector investments might not necessarily go hand-in-hand efficiently.
“Investments by companies are in danger of being unnecessarily crowded out by the wave of funding that has been triggered,” the federation said, pointing to the new strategy not giving companies sufficient certainty for their expansion plans.
“We will continuously evaluate the implementation of the funding. If the evaluation shows that state funding is crowding out private-sector expansion, we will take measures to counteract this,” the digital and transport ministry responded.
Amid a growing shortage of skilled labour, the strategy also lays out a general concept for the recruitment of skilled workers along the value chain.
Not postponing targets
In addition to the often emphasised digital and social participation, the expansion of gigabit-capable networks also promotes Germany’s competitive strength.
“In perspective, we do not need 1-gigabit networks, but 10-gigabit-ready fibre-optic networks. They should be made the actual standard for all telecommunications networks to be built so that our version of the gigabit society is then also competitive,” said Klaus Landefeld, board member for infrastructure and networks at the digital association eco.
Landefeld also said there should not be any delays to the 2030 target of going full fibre-optic by 2030.
According to the ministry strategy, accelerate expansion can only be achieved if various players cooperate closely.
To this end, a federal-state committee that will meet four times a year will be set up at the state secretary level. Exchange among actors will also be improved due to the biannual industry dialogue between associations and telecommunications companies laid out in the strategy.
“The federal government’s gigabit strategy can only fulfil its goals if the federal and state governments pull together with the network operators,” said Bitkom President Achim Berg. Euractiv