In 2019, Telekom bought its 5G frequencies at auction for EUR 2.17 billion. Barely more than one and a half years later, 66 million people in Germany can surf with 5G. Read now which 5G frequencies Telekom is using.
Which 5G frequencies does Deutsche Telekom use in Germany?
Telekom uses two 5G bands for the latest mobile communications standard in Germany. One of the bands is in the 3.6 gigahertz (GHz) range. The second operates on the 2.1 GHz frequency. Which frequency band Telekom uses where has to do with physical conditions. The long-wave 2.1 GHz frequencies are well suited covering large areas. In densely populated regions, Deutsche Telekom uses 5G on the higher 3.6 GHz frequency: Where there are many radio masts, the short-wave 3.6 GHz frequencies play out their advantages. The physical law behind it? The longer the wavelength, the greater the 5G range.
The dual rollout is worth it. It enables Telekom to quickly connect small cities to the 5G network. At the same time, Telekom is implementing the specific requirements for 5G in large cities: On the 3.6 GHz frequency, Telekom uses 90 MHz of spectrum for 5G. This enables higher data throughput compared with the 2.1 GHz frequency. The wider spectrum increases capacity and speed. That's why Telekom has brought its high-speed 5G to the Allianz Arena in Munich, for example.
Telekom's 5G frequencies complement each other
In the 2.1 GHz frequency band, 15 MHz of bandwidth is available for 5G. Until now, this frequency band was reserved for the UMTS standard. UMTS stands for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. UMTS thus describes the third mobile communications standard, 3G for short. Deutsche Telekom is refarming this band for LTE / 4G and 5G.
This is how it works: technicians replace a module in the operating room of the mobile communications systems and update the software. They do not have to replace the antennas. By the middle of this year, all UMTS sites will also be transmitting in 5G or 4G. This makes sense because the new mobile communications standards offer many advantages. For example, a mobile communications provider can supply several customers simultaneously and more quickly. By the way, the 2G network will remain in place for safety.
How are 5G and 4G related?
The fifth mobile communications standard still needs its predecessor. The 5G network is currently based on the 4G architecture. It is a non-standalone (NSA) network. Deutsche Telekom is planning a standalone (SA) 5G network for the future. The company has already put the first 5G SA antenna into operation. In March, it was used to make the first 5G SA video call.
With the help of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS for short), Telekom operates two mobile communications standards from one antenna. The antennas transmit variably in LTE / 4G or 5G. They release the available spectrum as required. If users want to surf with 5G, they can. If their smartphone only supports 4G, the antenna establishes a 4G connection. The advantage here: Additional frequency spectrum is available for LTE users through DSS. They therefore also achieve higher data capacities and higher speeds.
What are anchor frequencies?
Anchor frequencies enable a 5G SA connection to be established. 4G is used for this purpose. With an LTE frequency as an anchor, the 5G connection pulls itself into the base network. For Telekom's network, this means that the 800, 900 and 1,800 MHz frequencies, for example, each form an anchor. This anchor works for the 2.1 GHz 5G frequency. The 1,800 MHz frequency and the 2,600 MHz frequency also act as anchors for the fast 5G at 3.6 GHz. In principle, any LTE frequency can serve as an anchor. Telekom is therefore gradually introducing further anchor frequencies.
Many new smartphones now support all anchor bands. This applies to all phones that are available in Telekom tariff plans. This was not the case until the end of 2020. Among other things, closely spaced frequencies challenge the technology: Only a few smartphones, for example, previously mastered the 1,800 MHz frequency as an anchor for 5G at 2.1 GHz. Another technology can help here: inter-site anchoring.
Telekom's 5G network is growing fast
In Germany, 80 percent of the population can now use 5G. Telekom's 5G network is growing at a rapid pace, thanks in part to DSS. Telekom supplies around 5,000 cities and communities with 5G. To achieve this, technicians have upgraded and expanded around 50,000 antennas for 5G. Most of them transmit at the 2.1 GHz frequency. For example, Telekom also supplies Helgoland and the Zugspitze with 5G.
Telekom offers very fast 5G on the 3.6 GHz frequency in major cities. Here, users can achieve speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. 1,000 new antennas distributed throughout Germany ensure more speed. Telekom is already transmitting on the 3.6 GHz 5G frequency in over 30 cities (as of March 2021). In Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, for example. Many cities in the Ruhr region are also ready for 5G.
Which 5G frequencies have been purchased by mobile providers in Germany?
There are only certain frequencies that are suitable for mobile communications. This is due to physical reasons. This makes it necessary to order the use of radio spectrum. In Germany, this task is performed by the Federal Network Agency. It controls the allocation of radio spectrum by auctioning off rights for use for a certain period of time.
From March 19, 2019, the 5G frequencies now in use were auctioned off. This involved the 3.4 to 3.7 GHz ranges, as well as spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band. The auction did not end until June 12 of the same year - after 497 rounds! The Federal Network Agency then announced its decision on August 2, 2019.
In addition to Telekom, other mobile providers took part in the auction. Vodafone, Telefonica Deutschland and Drillisch (United-Internet) were among them. Telekom bought four frequency blocks in the 2.1 GHz band for EUR 2.17 billion. Nine frequency sections in the 3.6 GHz range completed the package. Telekom holds the usage rights until 2040.
Frequency allocation is regulated. The Federal Network Agency is responsible for this. It allocates frequencies for specific purposes on basis of the German government's frequency plan. The allocation procedures must be transparent and objective.
An important deadline soon, for example, is December 31, 2025, when the usage rights for the 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz frequency bands (three frequency blocks) expire. Likewise, those rights for the 2.6 GHz frequency will end.
All information on the network expansion can be found here: https://www.telekom.de/netz/mobilfunk-netzausbau