Berlin, Hamburg Them Deutsche Telekom, vodafonetelephone and 1 and 1 Does the country have enough mobile phone networks? This question is currently Federal Network Agency and plans to submit a report on Monday.

The answer is likely to be costly for companies. Because they are subject to conditions since 2019, which companies received together with valuable 5G frequencies. A fine of up to 50,000 euros is threatened for each missing mast, depending on the damage.

In December, the heads of telecommunications companies had already approached the authority’s advisory board to answer questions from federal and state government politicians. They tried once again to present the omissions as not their fault, as can be seen from the meeting documents. They are available for the Handelsblatt.

According to this, the companies have indeed achieved many of the objectives set: 98 percent of households cover the big three with fast Internet, as well as many highways and railways.

But there is a problem with the 500 areas that have not yet been covered, the “white dots” on the mobile phone map. According to agency head Klaus Müller, concrete mast contracts were only available for 173 locations at the beginning of December, with 153 still without suitable locations more than three years after the auction. With deadlocks remaining, providers are “relatively along.” There are also problems in the railway tunnels.

Penalties of up to 50,000 euros – for each missing mast

That’s what it will be about on Monday when the Advisory Council meets next time. There are reasons for every mast that has not yet been built, Telekom Germany boss Srini Gopalan had already assured in December, in agreement with the other bosses.

>> Read also: The many deadlocks are a shameful failure of the federal government.

This does not sit well with politicians. CDU member of the Bundestag and member of the Advisory Board Nadine Schön said: “It is frustrating that some of the goals were not achieved.” The 500 base stations in particular would have meant significant progress, as would the expansion of the new network. “We will discuss the reasons and responsibility and also draw the necessary conclusions,” Schön announced.

Politicians from the ruling coalition threaten. “If the companies do not close the white points or 1&1 is capable of setting up radio antennas, that must also be sanctioned,” said the PDF– Deputy Maximilian Funke-Kaiser. And the green politician Tabea Rößner, chair of the digital committee in the Bundestag, said: “I understand that finding a location is difficult, especially in rural areas. But the conditions are not there so that there are no consequences if they are not met.” S.P.D.-Digital politician Jens Zimmermann demands that the “conditions be met and consistently met.”

Network expansion: 1&1 has a particularly bad track record

Above all, the balance sheet for United Internet founder and CEO Ralph Dommermuth is poor. The newcomer among network providers, which has been working on a fourth mobile network in Germany since 2019, is making no progress. Of the thousand radio stations that Dommermuth’s 1&1 company would have had to put into operation by the end of 2022, there were only three as of early 2023.

The head of the company was particularly humble in December. He wants to build a new type of network with the so-called Open RAN infrastructure that will make it independent of established providers like ericsson either huawei can. The technology is extremely powerful and flexible, as long as there are masts.

Dommermuth’s main supplier is the formally independent vodafone-Daughter advantage towers, which, however, according to industry circles, apparently did not connect a single one instead of the guaranteed 650 masts. It is noticeable that the mother Vodafone advanced well, although not in the white points.

ralph dommermuth

United Internet CEO promises to significantly expand the 1&1 network by the end of 2023.

(Photo: Michael Englert for Handelsblatt)

1&1 does not comment on the expansion figures of individual contractual partners. Upon request, Vantage states that “strict confidentiality” has been agreed with 1&1.

The company tries to use existing cell towers. In addition to the main supplier Vantage, 1&1 has signed contracts with two other growers. However, they only come into play when Vantage is not already operating a mast on a radio cell. It is then laboriously checked whether another mast can be used or whether a new one must be built. This consultation alone “is not moving as quickly as desired,” Dommermuth said at the December advisory board meeting.

the head of Federal Network Agency listened carefully and wants to see if mobile phone masts cannot be regulated in such a way that all network operators can use them, in order to save time and speed up expansion.

1&1 wants to assemble 1,000 masts by the end of 2023

In an interview with the Handelsblatt, Dommermuth was now sure: there are now more than three locations in operation. He wants to connect the 1,000 masts that should be ready in 2022 by the end of the year. “Building antennas is complex, but ultimately it’s not rocket science,” Dommermuth said.

the contract with advantage towers We now see “tighter timelines for site completion.” He is in constant contact with the network agency and politics. “We do everything that is commercially and technically possible.”

Companies expect leniency. The president of the agency, Müller, recognized, for example, that there were problems in equipping the tunnels with mobile communications. Here, “the necessary participation of the Deutsche Bahn AG to take into account,” he said understandingly.

railway tunnel

Mobile operators blame the railways for many tunnels without reception.

(Photo: imago/Robert Michael)

The mobile operators had flagged the railway, which only hesitantly allowed access to the tunnels. Telefónica boss Markus Haas, for example, had explained that 1,000 locations were needed to supply enough power to the rails. So far, however, the railway has only been able to provide around 30. Gopalan, the head of Telekom Germany, complained that it would take until 2025 for him to gain access to all the tunnels. There were also problems with the railway radio, which was only due to be modernized on all trains by 2024. Vodafone’s Philippe Rogge also made it clear that the delays were “not his fault”.

In addition, companies refer to long procedures. According to them, it takes two to three years from planning to the connected mast. One year approval required.

The Advisory Council will discuss this next Monday. The agency wants to present its final report in March, including the consequences.

More: Change of trend in mobile communications – Telefónica significantly increases prices

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