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450connect – nationwide 450 MHz LTE network for utilities

Everyone is talking about 5G mobile technology and its network expansion in Germany is in full swing. But LTE (4G) is also seeing a lot of action at the moment, because LTE is far from being old hat. In Germany, a nationwide 450 MHz LTE network is currently being built for energy providers and critical infrastructures.

The contract for the network was awarded to 450connect GmbH. 450connect’s 450 MHz platform is expected to make a decisive contribution to the energy transition and digitization in Germany. In this article, you will learn who is behind the 450connect consortium, what the technology of the 450 MHz LTE network looks like, what advantages the network offers and what the current status of implementation is.

What is 450connect?

In 2021, the German Federal Network Agency awarded the frequency usage right for the 450 MHz frequency range freed up by the shutdown of the old C radio telephone network to 450connect GmbH. 450connect GmbH is a consortium of energy and water companies. A particularly secure, high-availability LTE network for critical infrastructures (KRITIS) is to be created in Germany on the basis of 450 MHz. 450connect is responsible for building the 450 MHz platform and will be the sole operator of the network until 2040.

The 450connect joint venture is based in Cologne, Germany. The consortium’s four equal shareholders are the utility E.ON, a consortium of regional utilities, the utility alliance 450 and the Dutch energy network operator Alliander.

The 450 MHz LTE network from 450connect – the basis for digitization and energy transition

450connect’s 450 MHz LTE network is expected to play a central role in digitization and the implementation of the energy transition in Germany. Due to its characteristics, the network is tailor-made for the KRITIS sector. Companies from the energy supply, water management, telecommunications and transport sectors will receive a blackout-proof communication network for voice and data, which can be used to monitor and control devices, plants and processes in real time. For example, decentralized renewable energy plants such as wind power or photovoltaic systems can be efficiently and securely integrated into the overall energy system via the 450 MHz radio network platform. The network forms the basis for secure and highly available communication. It is considered one of the enablers for the energy transition and digitization in Germany.

Technology and special features of the 450 MHz LTE network

The frequencies used for the 450 MHz LTE network largely originate from the frequency range of the C network, which was shut down over 20 years ago. The 450 MHz frequency range, which is low compared to current 4G and 5G networks, enables long ranges and provides good building penetration. These characteristics make 450 MHz LTE interesting for the CRITIS sector.

Voice and data are to be transmitted over the 450 MHz platform. The frequency range is divided into an uplink range (451 to 455.74 MHz) and a downlink range (461 to 465.74 MHz). The platform supports LTE standards such as LTE-Cat-M1 (Long Term Evolution for Machines) and thus also the 5G requirements of 3GPP. Due to the relatively narrow frequency ranges, the maximum data rates in upload and download are significantly limited compared with the 4G and 5G mobile networks. They are nevertheless fully adequate for the intended application scenarios. The 450 MHz platform is implemented completely independently of the existing telecommunications networks. It can be operated autonomously for at least 72 hours via emergency power generators. The platform can prioritize data depending on its criticality. To connect to the 450 MHz LTE network, special terminal equipment supporting the 450 MHz frequency range is required. For example, suitable smart electricity meters can connect to the network. Access to the network for private individuals is not planned.

What are the benefits of 450connect’s 450 MHz platform?

The 450 MHz platform from 450connect offers the following advantages, among others:

– high ranges and good building penetration of the radio waves

– good area coverage with few radio masts – cost-effective setup and operation

– independent of existing telecommunications networks

– emergency power supply for the entire network – blackout-proof

– prioritization of applications possible

– high access security to the network – no access for private persons

– redundant design – guaranteed system availability

– high investment and future security

– use of standardized mobile radio technologies

What is the current implementation status at 450connect?

The 450connect consortium began building a nationwide platform based on 3G technology at the regional level even before the 450 MHz usage rights were awarded. The allocation of the 450 MHz frequencies in 2021 marked the start of the 450 MHz platform. Test operations with the first customers will start as early as 2022. It is planned to start operations in the first regions in 2023. Full operation of the 450 MHz radio network with its approximately 1,600 radio sites is planned by the end of 2024.