More than a year has passed since Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefónica and 1&1 Drillisch acquired the 5G wireless services frequencies from the Federal Network Agency for a total of 6.6 billion euros. In the meantime, the providers are already advertising 5G rates and fast Internet with download speeds of up to 1000 Mbit per second. But how far has the expansion progressed, is 5G already available nationwide and which provider is furthest along in the expansion?
Telekom with a slight lead
Deutsche Telekom has already provided 5G to over 3,000 towns and communities in Germany. In the past five weeks alone, 18,000 antennas have been made fit for 5G and integrated into the live network. Theoretically, 40 million people can now use 5G. This applies to large cities such as Frankfurt or Munich as well as smaller communities such as Wallgau in Upper Bavaria, Lampertswalde in Saxony or the Loreley city of Sankt Goarshausen. And 5G is now also available from Germany’s highest mountain.
“Half the population in Germany is now covered. 5G has arrived in all federal states. This is a big step for our customers, our network and for digitalization in Germany,” emphasizes Walter Goldenits, Head of Technology at Telekom Deutschland.
Range and speed
To supply as many people as possible with 5G, Telekom uses the spectrum on the 2.1 gigahertz (GHz) frequency. The physical properties of this frequency band enable a long range. At the same time, the data speed is also increased. In rural areas, the network sometimes achieves more than twice the speed. Customers can surf at up to 225 Mbit/s. In cities, the network reaches 600-800 Mbit/s at its peak. The network reaches even more speed and capacity on the 3.6 GHz frequency. Antennas on this band are currently transmitting in large cities like Berlin or Cologne. They achieve transmission rates of up to 1 Gbit/s and more.
Vodafone increases expansion
Currently, around 1,000 5G antennas are transmitting at more than 350 locations in the Vodafone network. In the course of the year, Vodafone plans to make 5G available to more than 10 million people in Germany with a further 8,000 antennas. In addition, the mobile communications group is also commissioning so-called 5G campus networks together with partners from industry. For this purpose, Vodafone recently presented the first scalable 5G product in Germany.
Vodafone is also relying on a frequency mix for its expansion: low-band (700 megahertz) to close dead spots in rural areas and bring fast networks even better into homes; mid-band (1.8 gigahertz) to provide residents in densely populated cities with fast networks; and high-band (3.5 gigahertz) to bring gigabit bandwidths in real time to industry and to places where many thousands of people access the network simultaneously – for example in football stadiums or at train stations.
“We complete our technology mix for 5G in Germany. This allows us to optimally align the expansion with the needs of the users. We are bringing 5G to the industry with high frequencies. With low frequencies we are bringing 5G to the countryside and even better to homes. And now we are bringing 5G with the medium frequencies even more into the cities,” confirms Vodafone’s Head of Technology Gerhard Mack.
Telefónica is still lagging behind
Telefónica (O2) is furthest behind of the three major mobile operators in Germany in terms of 5G network roll-out. However, O2 also plans to launch the 5G network on a large scale in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt this year. By the end of 2022, the company will turn 30 more cities in Germany into 5G cities and supply 16 million inhabitants with 5G via the O2 network. “With 5G, we will become the trampoline of digitalization. Thanks to us, companies and consumers can jump higher and further in the digital world,” says Markus Haas, CEO of Telefónica Germany, emphasising the significance of the current technological leap.
Last year the company therefore launched the largest investment programme in its 25-year history: By 2022, around 4 billion euros will be invested in the O2 network – to further consolidate the 4G network and for the rapid development of a 5G infrastructure.
The new player 1&1 Drillisch
The United Internet subsidiary 1&1 Drillisch also acquired its own frequencies for the first time at last year’s wireless services auction. But apart from the acquired frequencies, there is little to report so far. Since the company does not yet operate its own network, 1&1 Drillisch cannot rely on an existing infrastructure like the three other providers. And the construction of its own 5G antennas has not yet begun (as of June 2020). In order to offer consumers a nationwide network in the coming years, the newcomer is trying to rent roaming capacities from the established network operators, but without success so far. “We are dependent on roaming capacities in the beginning”, explains company boss Ralph Dommermuth to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.