German operators in retail land-grab as mobile market heats up

Germany's operators are expanding their retail presence as they seek to win larger shares of an increasingly competitive market, with data services and LTE firmly at the top of their agendas.

Deutsche Telekom said it is increasing the number of its shops by 100 from 1,100 in the next 18 months in order to fend off rising competition in Germany's mobile market, Reuters reported. This represents a change of strategy for the operator, which had reduced shop numbers over the past three years.

Telefónica Germany, which operates under the O2 brand, has also just opened a new concept store in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and said it will provide a high level of service to help customers select the right data plan.

The operator is targeting German prepaid customers who do not already own a smartphone in order to boost its subscriber numbers. Telefónica Germany CEO René Schuster, who recently ruled out an imminent merger with rival operator E-Plus, said the future lies in the provision of data services, and told Handelsblatt he is convinced that SMS and voice calls will in future be offered for free. Telefónica Germany launched a range of new data-focused tariffs in February this year.

"The market is still growing," Schuster said. However, he noted that consumers will need more education to be able to use more complex data-focused devices. German consumers have typically been slower to adopt smartphones and tablets than their European counterparts, but they are catching up.

Michiel van Eldik, Telefónica Germany's managing director  of wholesale and partner management, added that smartphones had now reached the mass market, with prices of between €100 and €200.

Reuters noted that shops are increasingly important marketing opportunities for German operators: Deutsche Telekom currently operates 1,100 shops in Germany, compared to Vodafone Germany's 1,600 shops and Telefónica Germany's 1,000 shops. KPN's E-Plus/BASE brand has about 800 shops and plans to open more, Reuters reported.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Handelsblatt article (translated via Google Translate)

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