After Telefónica Germany became the last of the three main German mobile network operators (MNO) to switch off its 3G network in December 2021, the focus can now be placed entirely on the upgrade and expansion of 4G and the deployment of new 5G networks.
The three MNOs are certainly in agreement on one key aspect: that 5G is being rolled out faster than any previous mobile network standard. The latest update comes from Vodafone Germany, which said its 5G network now covers 45 million people in the country, or more than half of the German population of around 83 million.
Vodafone Germany CEO Hannes Ametsreiter hailed the rapid rollout of the new network, saying it is being deployed twice as fast as originally planned. The original goal had been to supply around 20 million people with 5G by the start of 2022. Vodafone now expects to be able to offer 5G fixed wireless access services to more than 60 million people by 2023.
So far, the German operator has deployed a total of 18,000 5G antennas at 6,000 locations. It noted that it relies on a mix of frequency bands, with 3.6GHz used in city centers and in large venues, 1.8GHz in residential areas and suburbs, and 800MHz for more rural regions. Furthermore, it has deployed its first antenna in the 26GHz band, in the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.
Vodafone also boasted that 5G standalone is already being deployed in many areas, and can be accessed by customers with certain Oppo and Samsung smartphones.
Rivals Deutsche Telekom (DT) and Telefónica Deutschland (O2) are also busily building out their own 5G networks.
In December 2021, DT said 63,000 antennas are now transmitting 5G, while 3,500 antennas have been upgraded to support 5G standalone. The operator also claimed its 5G network now covers 90% of Germany's population and said it is aiming to achieve 90% geographic coverage by 2025.
Telefónica Deutschland said it would cover 50% of the population with 5G by the end of 2022, with 30% achieved by the end of 2021. The operator aims to cover the entire population with its 5G network by the end of 2025.
Three becomes four
A fourth 5G network is also on the cards: United Internet-owned 1&1 is building what it claims will be Germany's most modern 5G network. Indeed, the operator has been putting the pieces in place for its new network. For example, it concluded a new national roaming agreement with Telefónica, expanded its fiber-optic network, prepared a detailed antenna network plan, and signed up Japan's Rakuten Mobile as its mobile network construction partner.
In December, it also signed an agreement with tower company Vantage Towers for the provision of passive infrastructure. Vantage Towers will be providing 1&1 access to up to 5,000 existing sites.
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading