German operators sharpen tools in battle for the mobile data generation

As Germany's operators await the outcome of the European Commission's probe into the planned merger between Telefónica Deutschland and KPN-owned E-Plus, they have been stepping up their efforts to win the hearts and minds of a generation of German subscribers for whom mobile data is now becoming king.

Just this week, Deutsche Telekom unveiled new data tariffs that put the focus firmly on affordability for mobile surfing and will be available from early May. The new Data Comfort plans can be used for laptop and tablets and are priced according to speed and inclusive data volume, with the most expensive tariff costing €29.95 ($41) a month for 5 GB at download speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

German mobile data tariffs often still lack the high inclusive data allowances that are evident in some markets: in the UK, for example, EE offers up to 50 GB in its smartphone and laptop plans, while in Romania Cosmote offers a whopping 100 GB for €30 to laptop users.

Telefónica Deutschland provides higher data volumes than Deutsche Telekom in its smartphone and laptop/tablet plans, with 10 GB included in the O2 Go + Surf Flat XXL laptop tariff for €44.99. In addition, the new O2 Blue All-In smartphone tariffs that have just been made available to consumers and business users include up to 10 GB at €79.99.

E-Plus, meanwhile, has already made something of an impact this month after it unveiled a partnership with WhatsApp that will allow unlimited WhatsApp usage under a new prepaid tariff.

The company, which brands itself the "digital native" among Germany's mobile operators, also has other channels to market thanks to its strong multi-brand strategy, and its Simyo unit has just unveiled a series of new smartphone tariffs called All-On. Although the data allowances are a fairly meagre 1 GB, there are options to top up by 3 GB. The web site has also been relaunched in order to respond better to user requirements.

Meanwhile the Telefónica/E-Plus merger continues to move slowly through the regulatory process, with a decision now expected towards the end of June. Latest reports say Telefónica has put forward some concessions to the European Commission to secure the €8.6 billion ($11.9 billion) deal, such as offering spectrum to its rivals. Sources told Reuters that the company's aim is to create a fourth operator to prevent a reduction to three operators following the merger and thereby allay competition concerns.

Hutchison Whampoa is believed to have taken a similar approach in Ireland, where it hopes to buy O2 Ireland from Telefónica and merge it with 3 Ireland. It was reported in March that the group would establish a ready-made fourth mobile operator in the country if the Commission approves the €780 million acquisition.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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