The German telecommunications company 1&1 is facing a potential fine of up to 50 million euros for failing to expand its 5G network. However, an even greater penalty could be imposed as the company has also failed to fulfill its promise to build mobile phone antennas in unserviced areas, known as white spots. In 2018, 1&1 pledged to help improve mobile coverage in Germany by opening up transmission sites in areas that were previously unserved. The company agreed to let established operators Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Vodafone install their own antennas on these sites.
According to the former Minister responsible for the deal, Andreas Scheuer, 400 new transmission sites were to be created by the end of 2021. However, 1&1 only handed over a few transmission masts. As of now, 32 are under construction, and 1&1 is still waiting for a building permit for a further 138. All the German network operators have been complaining for a long time about the length of time German building permit procedures take.
The agreement between the network operators and the German government was that the operators would increase 4G mobile phone coverage to 99 percent of all households in every federal state by the end of 2020, but this was later postponed to 2021. In exchange, the German government deferred the fees for the 5G broadcasting rights auctioned in 2019 without interest.
The deal had been proposed to strengthen competition and reduce high German tariffs. However, through Scheuer’s political intervention, the obligation to open networks to subtenants was weakened to become an obligation to negotiate, and the prices charged were not regulated. Consumers are looking through their fingers. The delay in fulfillment of the promise by 1&1 has led to the responsible Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV) extending the deadline. Even if the established network operators see things differently, the ministry has not yet made the outstanding 5G frequency fees due.