In the latest example of telco rivals realising that a problem shared could well be a problem halved, or even better than that, German operators Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica Deutschland and Vodafone have entered into a cooperation for mobile network expansion to extend coverage throughout the country.
In a joint statement, the operators said they intend to collaborate closely in the future, with the aim of expanding their mobile communications networks to achieve the best possible mobile broadband coverage for customers throughout Germany, especially in rural areas and along road, rail and inland waterway transport routes. This is a condition that the operators are required to fulfil as stipulated in the country’s spectrum auction and subsequent licence allocation.
The coverage requirements imposed by the German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) at the spectrum auction in 2019 called for investments worth billions of euros. In the auction of the new spectrum licences for Germany in summer 2019, the operators invested around €6.5bn, and the agreed cooperation serves to largely close white spots in sparsely populated regions and along traffic routes in an economically viable way. Coverage of transport routes was also a requirement imposed on the operators in the scope of the spectrum auction. The planned agreement enables the network operators to offer their customers the maximum possible coverage along the transport routes.
The three mobile operators have always expressed, and continue to express, the view that the conditions imposed upon them are excessive and do not comply with applicable legislation. Moreover, they add that real-world operating conditions show that an increasing number of citizens’ initiatives and bureaucratic hurdles often slow down the expansion of networks where, in some cases, it is needed most.
That notwithstanding, to fulfil their legal requirements, the telcos plan to coordinate the set-up and operation of up to 6,000 new cell sites and have signed a letter of intent to this effect. The plan proposes that each company participating in the collaboration should set up an equal number of new sites which can then be used by the collaboration partners and fitted with their own antennas and the appropriate network technology as required.
Markus Haas, Telefónica Deutschland
Deutsche Telekom described the cooperation as a milestone for network expansion in Germany. “Our common goal is to eliminate coverage gaps in the mobile network as soon as possible,” remarked managing director Dirk Wössner.
“Sharing infrastructure is nothing new for us. Sharing it at this scale, however, is a major step in the right direction. After all, high-speed internet and excellent voice quality on road, rail and water are vital for an industrial country like Germany that relies on mobile communications,” he said.
“Mobile communications will be the most important technology in the coming decade. And we are pooling our resources to put Germany in an ideal position,” added Markus Haas, CEO of Telefónica Deutschland. “This collaboration is an outstanding example of intelligent cooperation towards taking the next logical step. We must join forces if we are to consolidate Germany’s position as a leading business location that is ready to take on future challenges.”
German network-independent telecoms provider 1&1 Drillisch has been invited to participate in this network expansion collaboration. A prerequisite for joining the collaboration is that the operator must be willing to take on a share of the expansion projects equal to the other parties.
The German Federal Cartel Office has been informed about the collaboration plans and more details of the collaboration should be formally agreed by spring 2020 at the latest. Planning activities for the joint network expansion will likely begin at that time. The operators believe opportunities for further expansion should also be available through relevant government aid allocated for eliminating specific coverage gaps. The network operators say they are also willing to work together in this regard.
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