BERLIN (Reuters) - The parties in talks to form Germany’s next government want to commit 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to a national broadband upgrade, paid for from 5G spectrum auctions, budget funds and the sale of state shareholdings, a joint position paper said.
Plowing funds into creating a “Gigabit society” by 2025, in which ultra-fast glass-fibre networks are rolled out nationwide, is seen by the allies as vital to defending the competitiveness of Europe’s biggest economy.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives, their Bavarian allies, the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the environmentalist Greens have agreed to commit revenues from planned 5G mobile spectrum auctions to digital infrastructure.
“As necessary, proceeds from the sale of federal shareholdings and budget funds will have to be deployed,” said the one-and-a-half page paper seen on Monday by Reuters.
The document made no mention of which state shareholdings might be put on the block, but the liberals and the Greens have both called for the state to reduce its 31.9 percent stake in Deutsche Telekom to fund the upgrade.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who narrowly won re-election in September, oppose selling Telekom stock on national security grounds but are open to reducing the state’s holding in Deutsche Post, sources have said.
Germany’s telecoms regulator has allocated frequencies for 5G spectrum auctions to be held next year that would enable telecoms operators to offer services that would support connected cars, help automate manufacturing or run smart cities. It’s not yet clear how much money the auctions would raise.
Talks on forming an unprecedented “Jamaica” coalition - named after the party colors that also make up the national flag of the Caribbean island - have picked up after a slow start and Merkel is pushing to complete an outline deal.
The putative allies, however, put off a decision on whether to shift responsibility for digital policy to the Federal Chancellery or to create a new digital ministry - an FDP demand opposed by the other parties at the negotiating table.
Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Adrian Croft