Deutsche Telekom’s 5G network covers 16 million people in Germany

Deutsche Telekom touted its 5G network in Germany this week, covering 16 million people with a boost from additional spectrum and dynamic spectrum sharing technology.

DT said it already has 12,000 5G antennas live, with 40,000 expected on air by the end of 2020. 5G services are available in more than 1,000 towns and DT is tracking to reach 50% of Germany’s population, or 40 million people by mid-July. That’s an acceleration from the earlier target of the end of 2020.

"This is the largest 5G initiative in Germany. We are bringing 5G to urban and rural areas for half of the German population. And we are now reaching this milestone earlier than planned," said Telekom Deutschland CEO Dirk Wössner in a statement. "Despite the Corona crisis, we have expanded 5G without detours. Our networks have worked reliably.   

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Accelerating its 5G rollout was possible, in part, by DT getting its hands on 10 MHz of additional 3G spectrum earlier than planned. Originally, DT was going to acquire the spectrum from another unnamed provider to use in 2021 but purchased it “ahead of schedule.” That along with 5 MHz of refarmed 3G spectrum make up 15 MHz of spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band that DT’s using for both LTE and 5G.  

In Germany, continuing to expand 4G LTE is still a focus, in parallel with 5G rollouts, and operators like DT are utilizing spectrum resources for both technologies.  

Last June, DT spent around €2.2 billion at Germany’s 5G auction to scoop up spectrum in the 3.6 GHz and 2.1 GHz frequencies. Vodafone Germany, which launched its commercial 5G network last summer, paid around €1.88 billion at the auction for 40 MHz in the 2.1 GHz band and 90 MHz in the 3.6 GHz range.

Like Vodafone, DT also is using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) to more rapidly expand 5G. That enables 4G LTE and 5G NR to run on the same channel simultaneously, automatically shifting spectrum allocation between the two based on network traffic needs.

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Customers across geographies in Germany are expected to see a speed boost with more bandwidth from additional spectrum and DSS. DT said speeds in rural locations are doubling up to 225 Mbps, while urban areas getting peak speeds between 600-800 Mbps. In major cities like Berlin and Cologne, 5G antennas are delivering data rates up to 1 Gbps over 3.6 GHz, according to the operator.  

So far, DT’s 5G-capable handsets include the Samsung S20 series, the OnePlus 8, OnePlus 8 Pro and the Huawei P40 Pro.

For its 5G radio access network (RAN), the operator is continuing to use gear from existing 4G suppliers Ericsson and Huawei. The use of Huawei equipment came under scrutiny as the U.S. has campaigned globally for allies to exclude the vendor from 5G networks, citing national security concerns. Huawei denies U.S. claims it could be used by the Chinese government for spying or disruption through telecom networks.

DT in its release said that when it comes to antennas, it’s technically impossible to upgrade 4G components from one manufacturer to 5G from another vendor. To that end, the operator’s completed new 5G RAN contracts with both Ericsson and Huawei.

DT had already decided last year to phase Chinese suppliers out of its core network, including 5G. The core handles data processing and is seen as more security sensitive than the RAN portion, but also less lucrative in terms of operator spending for vendor contracts.