While there are hives of LTE activity across the country, the first commercial services are likely to be in rural areas where people do not even have fixed broadband connections, as operators focus on meeting the government's national broadband coverage targets and certain license obligations. (See V'fone Germany to Test LTE for Rural Broadband.)
Widespread, commercial LTE services are still a few years away in Germany, according to Lee Sanders, a partner at Analysys Mason .
"I don't think [the operators] need the [new] spectrum yet for capacity reasons," says Sanders. "It will be a few years before they run out of capacity."
The focus now is on the coverage obligations that the regulator, Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) , attached to the licenses for 800MHz spectrum in the country. These apply to Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Telefónica O2 Germany GmbH & Co. OHG , and Vodafone Germany , which each won licenses in this frequency band in the spectrum auction that ended in May. (See German Spectrum Auction Ends, Raises €4.4B.)
These three operators are required to cover 90 percent of the population with LTE mobile broadband at 800MHz in the most rural areas before they can go on to deploy networks and offer services in more populated areas. Only the 800MHz spectrum has such a coverage obligation, even though spectrum in the 1.8GHz, 2GHz, and 2.6GHz bands was also released in the auction.
The deal is that only one operator has to meet this obligation in each specified area, and the regulator has left it to the operators to decide among themselves who will deploy where. So it's possible that there could be a situation where the operators get together and divvy up the under-served broadband regions so that network infrastructure is not duplicated.
But it is too soon for the operators to reveal how they will go about this, according to a spokeswoman at Vodafone Germany and a spokesman from Telefónica 02 Germany.
Technically, the operators don't yet have their new frequencies. The regulators and the operators are still working on the actual spectrum assignments that will be awarded from the recent auction. Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica O2, Vodafone, and E-Plus Service GmbH & Co. KG each won a certain amount of blocks of spectrum in the auction, but now the regulator has to determine exactly where those blocks of spectrum will sit in the frequency bands.
This unfinished auction procedure indicates that it is still early days for LTE rollouts in Germany. But the LTE activity is picking up. Here's what the operators are planning so far:
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile