Sector coupling through the lens of 5 G networks

Knieps, G.

The paper “Sector coupling through the lens of 5 G networks” (Knieps, G.) will be presented at the 9th Conference on the Regulation of Infrastructures (25-26 June, 2020).


The relevance of 5G is concomitant with sector coupling for both the changing markets for communication and entertainment as well as for the future Internet of Things (IoT). The 5 G driven IoT poses disruptive challenges for traditional network industries, enabling IoT applications for physical network services based on real time, adaptive and location sensitive data. There is an open and ever-expanding set of physical IoT applications. Important areas for applications are smart sustainable cities, intelligent transportation systems and smart energy networks. Different virtual networks which are complementary for heterogeneous IoT application services are based on sensor networks, quality of service (QoS) requirements of all-IP broadband communication and big data processing and geolocational services.

Traditional separately organized markets are converging resulting into large potentials for sector coupling due to the blurring borderlines of traditional network industries. Microgrids can combine the low voltage generation and consumption of electricity with a particular focus on renewable energy coupling customer tailored energy generation and storage with energy consumption. Multipurpose home networks are blurring the boundaries between communication and entertainment and IoT applications when combining broadband based sensor network data communication for energy prosumage with communication and entertainment applications such as voice over IP and IPTV.

The disruptive change from 4 G /LTE towards 5G networks architecture raises important questions regarding the future regulations driven by the requirements of 5G based virtual networks and complementary sector coupling:

  • Increasing scarceness of spectrum: the need for innovative allocation mechanisms and spectrum harmonization;
  • Path-dependency: regulatory market split into safety-critical IoT applications and non-safety-critical applications: auctions versus ad hoc assignments;
  • Role of spectrum sharing: market driven versus mandatory sharing;
  • Role of cooperation and competition to stimulate sector coupling;
  • Privacy and cyber security regulations



Prof. Dr. Günter Knieps is professor of economics at the University of Freiburg. Before that he held a position as professor of microeconomics at Groningen (Netherlands). He studied economics and mathematics and obtained his PhD in Bonn. He held post-doc positions at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania and obtained his habilitation in Berne. He is author of numerous publications on network economics, (de-)regulation, competition policy, and sector studies on network industries (e.g. transport, telecommunications and postal markets, internet and energy). He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Councils of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy.

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