Enlarge image

Mobile phone mast in Schwerin: There are still places in Germany without modern mobile Internet

Photo: BildFunkMV / IMAGO

For the first time, the Federal Network Agency has initiated fine proceedings against the mobile phone providers Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica (O2) and Vodafone due to weaknesses in the mobile phone network. This was done "because of culpable failure to fully meet the supply requirements in time," according to a letter from the Federal Network Agency, which is available to the dpa news agency. Accordingly, the proceedings were already opened in September. However, this step has not yet been made public.

The network operators are of the opinion that they have not violated the expansion requirements. They invoke an exceptional rule: where the expansion was not possible for legal and factual reasons – for example, because no one wanted to rent out a plot of land on which a radio mast could be erected – the requirement is considered to be fulfilled even without a network. However, the network agency is of the opinion that in some cases the companies make it too easy for themselves with such justifications – and that in some places antennas could have been installed after all.

The dispute is about 500 4G dead spots, i.e. places where none of the three network operators allows an Internet connection with a speed of at least 100 megabits per second. Those problems should have been solved by the turn of the year as best they could. Apparently, however, the providers did not manage to do this everywhere. According to the information, there is also no good network in some federal road tunnels, although it should be available there – this is also the subject of the proceedings.

Any fines are likely to be low

According to industry circles, however, the number of misconduct is very low. If fines are imposed at the end of the proceedings, they are likely to be correspondingly low. The opening of proceedings is more likely to be seen as a signal to the industry to make more of an effort in the expansion and to fully comply with supply requirements.

In the spring, the Federal Network Agency had already opened fine proceedings against the newcomer 1&1, which is currently building its own mobile phone network and wants to launch it soon. For this purpose, 1&1 had purchased frequencies for the first time in 2019. By the end of 2022, the company should have activated 1000 5G sites. In fact, there were five.

On the other hand, the authority had not yet conducted any fine proceedings against established network operators.