Deutsche Telekom kicks off 5G in Germany

Deutsche Telekom
From left, Michael Hagspihl, director, Consumer Telekom Deutschland GmbH; Claudia Nemat, board member for Technology and Innovation; and Dirk Wössner, board member for Germany, kick off DT's 5G launch in Germany. (Deutsche Telekom)

While Deutsche Telekom (DT) is reportedly in late-stage talks to save the proposed T-Mobile and Sprint merger, it’s kicking off its own 5G network in Germany.

By the end of the year, DT expects to roll out some 300 5G antennas in more than 100 locations. It’s starting in six German cities: Berlin and Bonn are up first, to be followed by Darmstadt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich.

"We punched our ticket for a 5G future with the spectrum auction,” said Dirk Wössner, member of the DT board and managing director, Telekom Deutschland GmbH, in a statement. “Our goal now is to get 5G to the streets, to our customers, as quickly as possible. Nearly three-quarters of our antenna locations in Germany are connected with optical fiber – we're now building on that.”

Wössner went on to say that DT’s teams are working hard in every area, including the network, rate plans, devices and applications. He also said they need a clear regulatory framework from the authorities, particularly when it comes to questions about regional spectrum, local roaming, allocation of auction proceeds and approval procedures, which he said takes far too long in Germany.

In the U.S., CNBC reported yesterday that if the U.S. Department of Justice is going to allow T-Mobile to merge with Sprint, it’s going to need more concessions from DT, which is the majority owner of T-Mobile US. The company reportedly is in talks with both Dish Networks and the DoJ on the conditions of a divestiture and spectrum-hosting agreement designed to set up Dish as a new U.S. wireless competitor. CNBC said a deal could be finalized by next week.

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Over in Germany, LTE remains a focus. Unlike the U.S., which boasts a leadership position in LTE, Germany is still working on its LTE buildout. Wössner acknowledged that 5G is the future, but “at the same time, we know we still have to do our homework in our existing network, which is why the LTE buildout is still a major focus. We plan to build around 2,000 new mobile base stations this year alone. A particular aim is to eliminate white spots in rural areas."

On a parallel track, DT said it’s also working on 5G campus networks, together with industrial users. That way, the network buildout follows the specific needs of business customers.

Last month, DT said it bought spectrum worth 2.17 billion euros, securing four frequency blocks in the 2 GHz band and nine frequency packages in the 3.6 GHz band. But, the company complained that the price could have been much lower, with spectrum in Germany being much more expensive than other countries.

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The company today said that 18 startups at hubraum, its tech incubator, tested their 5G ideas in the past months using the live conditions of DT’s 5G testbed in Berlin, where they were also able to use edge computing. Examples of startups' 5G products include real-time sports information, training with data glasses and data gloves, and autonomous robots in factories.

DT is offering 5G devices and matching rate plans, and says it’s the first provider in Germany to do so. Deutsche Telekom's first 5G smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, while the HTC 5G Hub works as a portable hotspot.

Over the span of the next 18 months, DT expects to cover the 20 largest cities in Germany with 5G.