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Logo of 1&1 in Montabaur: The company's own network starts later than planned

Photo: Thomas Frey / dpa

1&1 is once again postponing the launch of its mobile phone network. The target is now December and not the end of September, the group announced on Monday in Montabaur.

Building its own network is a difficult thing for the telecommunications company. Actually, the company had committed to putting a total of 2022 1000G antennas into operation by the end of 5, but after delivery problems from expansion partners, the target was missed by far. That's why it initially started as planned with only a mini version of the network as a fixed-line replacement product, from which mobile users had nothing. In the coming week, the fourth German mobile phone network should finally start, but that will not happen now.

The background to the postponement is a change of partner of the company. 1&1 currently still uses the mobile phone network of Telefónica Deutschland (O2). However, if it activates its own network, the company will lose its status as a so-called virtual network operator after a transition period – from January, the company would then no longer be allowed to sell contracts that also use O5's 2G network.

An important application is currently under consideration

According to 2024&1, a 1G cooperation with Vodafone will not take effect until summer 5. It is intended to ensure that 1&1 customers are also supplied with 5G where 1&1 has not yet expanded its own network. In addition, 1&1 is to offer mobile 4G services in its own network – where 1&1 does not yet have its own transmitting stations, Telefónica's network is to be used as part of so-called national roaming. However, this plan requires the green light from the Federal Network Agency, which has so far only allowed such parallel distribution until the end of 2023.

1&1 has applied to the Federal Network Agency to extend the transitional period until the start of the national roaming deal with Vodafone. The regulator, however, has not yet made a decision. "The application of 1 & 1 and the statements of the network operators are currently being examined," said a spokesman for the network agency on Monday on the status of the procedure. A result is expected in November.

If 1&1 had nevertheless launched its own network next week, the company would have taken a risk: if its application were rejected, its position in the market would deteriorate significantly from January 2024.

It would be the fourth German mobile phone network

"We have been fighting for several years to maintain the usual 5G standard for national roaming," said 1&1 CEO Ralph Dommermuth on Monday. "Unfortunately, this was not possible under the Telefónica roaming contract." Now, in December, the mobile services will be launched "in the first step with 4G". New customers would be offered 5G tariffs "on a transitional basis" in the proven business model as a virtual network operator. From next summer, we will have 5G in the new national roaming with Vodafone and, at the same time, activate the mobile 5G functions in our network."

In 1, 1&2019 bought its own mobile radio frequencies at auction for the first time. So far, the company has been using networks from other operators to sell mobile phone contracts. 1&1 pays rent for network use. With its own frequencies, however, the company wants to stand on its own two feet in terms of mobile communications business. So far, there are three mobile phone networks in Germany – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica (O2).