Contract with the federal government: mobile communications companies want to improve network

Contract with the federal government: mobile communications companies want to improve network

In the future, there will be fewer radio holes in the countryside. Federal government and mobile radio operators agreed on additional mobile radio expansion, especially in rural regions.

A contract stipulates that by the end of 2021, 99 percent of households in each federal state will be covered by LTE – also known as 4G. Converted, this is more than 90 percent of the flat, as the federal government hieb. So far, operators are obliged to cover at least 98 percent of households with fast mobile internet by the end of 2019.

On friday, andreas scheuer (CSU), the federal minister responsible for digital infrastructure, expressed his delight at what he called an "expansion offensive". "This is a clear signal that the expansion of mobile communications in previously underserved regions is being driven forward at full speed."Last summer, the federal government and the industry had already set course for more ambitious targets, and now the 99 percent target has been made legally binding.

The contract stipulates that the companies build a total of 1,400 additional base stations – these are to be in place by the end of 2020 so that people can "make phone calls and surf the web without interruption". The planned additional sites are to be open for use by any operator.

The willingness of mobile operators deutsche telekom, vodafone, telefonica and 1&1 drillisch to sign the contract also had to do with financial motives. Now they will have to foot the bill for expensive 5G frequencies later than previously planned – the four companies will have to shell out a total of 6.6 billion euros to pay for the frequency spectrum for the ultra-fast mobile communications standard acquired in a federal auction in june. Now their payment obligations will be significantly stretched out over a period up to 2030. This saves companies a lot of interest on loans and gives them more financial freedom for investments.

According to separate obligations of the federal network agency that have been in force since 2015, companies must provide an average of 98 percent of households with a download speed of at least 50 mbit per second by the end of this year. Each state must have at least 97 percent – higher values from city states can therefore be taken into account to compensate for shortfalls in flat states and achieve the 98 percent value overall. By the end of 2022, the figure will increase to at least 100 mbit – the 98 percent target will remain, but will then apply equally to each federal state.

On the one hand, the new requirement from the "mobile communications pact" that has now been concluded is more ambitious, as it relates to the target of 99 percent of households, i.E., one percentage point more – the higher the coverage level, the more expensive the further rollout. On the other hand, the specification is vaguely formulated as "LTE coverage," without specifying a minimum download speed here.

There were positive words from network operators. The head of telefonica deutschland, markus haas, called the agreement "good news". His counterpart at telekom, dirk wossner, spoke of a "decisive step to close the loop". This will lay the foundation for the future expansion of 5G there as well. Ralph dommermuth of 1&1 drillisch had a similar view. And vodafone manager hannes ametsreiter said that the mobile communications pact would "once again significantly increase the speed of expansion.

Criticism came from the opposition in the bundestag. "What is missing from the current agreement are definite statements on the quality of mobile communications, i.E., the speed at which surfing will take place," said oliver krischer from the grunen party. The devil is in the details. "What network operators define as coverage does not mean fast internet or good telephone quality for cell phone users."FDP member frank sitta called the agreement "a small band-aid on the wounds of the past.

Experts were also not very pleased. This is an improvement over the expansion obligations from the 2015 frequency auction, said telecommunications professor torsten gerpott from the university of duisburg-essen. He criticized, however, that the focus continues to be on budgets and not on the flat. "99 percent sounds very high, but due to the reference to the households there will be unchanged quite rough funkholes."And 1400 additional mobile radio sites are less than 2 percent of the current 75,000 stations in germany.

Gerpott accused the federal government of years of inaction on the issue of mobile communications expansion. "The CDU/CSU has been at the helm of government in berlin since 2005 – since then, progress on grid expansion has been sluggish," said the professor. The agreement that has now been reached with the network operators is an attempt "to conceal the fact that the issue has been slept through for years – and not proof of a forward-looking mobile communications strategy".

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