When it comes to the mobile network, Telefónica with its O2 brand has long been perceived as Germany’s number three. But now a paper shows weaknesses compared to the competition.

According to a report, the network operator Telefónica (O2) is nowhere near as far as its competitors when it comes to expanding mobile communications.

An internal paper that the Federal Network Agency sent to the Digital Committee of the Bundestag and that is available to the dpa lists how far the companies have come with the expansion of mobile communications. Normally, the authority only publishes the overall status, i.e. the coverage of the three providers together. In the internal document, however, a distinction is made between the companies. This makes it clear that Telefónica still has a lot to do in fulfilling state requirements in many federal states.

According to the paper, Vodafone is the furthest in expansion, with antennas reaching 98.3 percent of German households in April and enabling a transmission rate of at least 100 MBit per second. Deutsche Telekom comes to 98.2 percent and Telefónica to 95.1 percent.

Clear goal

By the end of 2022, the companies must have coverage of at least 98 percent, according to the official coverage requirements of the 2019 frequency auction. This value must be achieved in every federal state and not just in the national average. This is a tightening compared to older expansion requirements because, for example, very high values ​​in city states cannot be counted to compensate for low values ​​in sparsely populated states.

The Federal Network Agency’s report shows that all network operators in several federal states have not yet reached their goal. However, the distance that Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom still have ahead of them is comparatively short: Telekom is below the 98 percent mark in seven federal states and Vodafone in six, sometimes very closely. Telefónica does not meet the coverage requirement in 12 of the 16 federal states – in some cases very clearly: In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the company only has coverage of 88 percent and in Bavaria 90 percent.

For the report, the Federal Network Agency used data from the companies. The values ​​from April 2022 are likely to be higher in view of the ongoing network expansion. They are to be randomly checked by the regulatory authority at some point after the implementation period on December 31, 2022.

Nothing new for Telefónica

The situation of having to catch up is not new for Telefónica: O2 already had major problems with the frequency requirements of the 2015 auction and arrived very late. At that time, the Federal Network Agency granted deadline extensions, but did not impose fines.

And what does Telefónica say about the numbers? A spokeswoman for the company referred to major expansion progress and referred to the benchmark of 50 megabits per second, which was part of the coverage requirements of the 2015 frequency auction. Here the O2 coverage values ​​are actually very high.

However, the 50 megabit specification does not apply to the supply requirements that must be met by the end of 2022; the 100 megabit value applies here. The supply must “largely now only be updated to 100 megabits per second,” said the O2 spokeswoman. “We are very confident that we will also be able to meet the next supply requirements.” The network expansion is being pushed forward “massively in order to achieve all goals”.

The economic policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group, Reinhard Houben, is critical of Telefónica’s expansion status. “At the 2019 auction, the company knew exactly what specifications it was accepting,” says the liberal. “Telefónica shouldn’t rely on the fact that if the deadline is not met, the Federal Network Agency will give it a generous extension and no fine will be imposed.”