5G regulation and law in Germany

Information current as of 2 January 2020

What is the state of 5G deployment in Germany?

In July 2019, Vodafone became the first mobile network operator in Germany to launch its 5G network (for more information click here).

In September 2019, Deutsche Telekom launched its 5G network in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Bonn and Darmstadt (for more information click here).

Telefónica announced that it would launch its 5G network in early 2020 (for more information click here).

In November 2019, Telefónica launched its first 5G campus network in Berlin (for more information click here).

The new entrant, 1&1 Drillisch, intends to launch its 5G network in 2021 (for more information click here). On 18 December 2019, 1&1 Drillisch AG announced that the company would lease frequencies from Telefónica for the construction of its own 5G network. This involves two frequency blocks of 10 MHz each in the 2.6 GHz range. Drillisch Online GmbH, a subsidiary of 1&1 Drillisch AG, and Telefónica Deutschland signed a corresponding contract (for more information click here).

Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?

All mobile network operators (MNO) in Germany (Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone and the new entrant Drillisch Netz) are planning to launch 5G services. Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom already launched 5G services in several German cities in 2019.

Are there any public tenders for spectrum licenses?

Yes, the 5G spectrum auction (2 GHz and 3.6 GHz) started on 19 March 2019 and ended on 12 June 2019 after 52 days and 497 rounds of bidding. The bidders have to pay more than EUR 6.5 bn in total; 420 MHz of spectrum were awarded:


Amount of spectrum

Award price

Drillisch Netz AG

2 GHz: 2 x 10 MHz
3,6 GHz: 50 MHz

EUR 334,997m
EUR 735,190m
total: EUR 1,070,187m

Telefónica Germany
GmbH & Co. OHG

2 GHz: 2 x 10 MHz
3,6 GHz: 70 MHz

EUR 381,104m
EUR 1,043,728m
total: EUR 1,424,832m

Telekom Deutschland GmbH

2 GHz: 2 x 20 MHz
3,6 GHz: 90 MHz

EUR 851,520m
EUR 1,323,423m
total: EUR 2,174,943m

Vodafone GmbH

2 GHz: 2 x 20 MHz
3,6 GHz: 90 MHz

EUR 806,501m
EUR 1,073,188m
total: EUR 1,879,689m

For more information click here.

What are the conditions?

On 14 May 2018, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) decided to auction the nationwide frequency usage rights regarding the frequency ranges 2 GHz and 3.4-3.6 GHz. On 26 November 2018, BNetzA announced the final award conditions and auction rules for the 5G spectrum auction. The spectrum will be allocated for the period until 31 December 2040. The spectrum allocations are combined with several coverage obligations regarding households, federal highways, national roads, waterways and railways:

1. Coverage of Population and Minimum Quantity of Base Stations by the end of 2022:

  • Coverage of population: at least 98% of households in each federal state must have at least 100 Mbit/s (downlink per antenna sector); the newcomer Drillisch Netz must fulfill different coverage obligations – at least 25% of households by the end of 2023, and at least 50% of households by the end of 2025.
  • Minimum quantity of base stations:
    • 1,000 5G base stations and
    • 500 base stations with at least 100 Mbit/s in "white spots" to be put into operation.

2. Coverage requirements for transport routes:

  • coverage of other mobile network operators will be taken into account.
  • by the end of 2022:
    • all federal motorways (→ approx. 18,000 km) with a minimum speed of 100 Mbit/s and a maximum speed of 10 milliseconds (ms) latency;
    • the federal roads (with specific connecting functions; → approx. 5,350 km) with at least 100 Mbit/s and at most 10 ms latency and
    • railways with more than 2,000 passengers per day (→ approx. 21,000 km) with a minimum of 100 Mbit/s.
  • By the end of 2024:
    • all other federal highways (→ approx. 32,700 km) with a minimum speed of 100 Mbit/s and a maximum speed of 10 ms latency.
    • all national and state roads (→ approx. 80,000 km) with at least 50 Mbit/s.
    • the seaports and the core inland waterway network (→ approx. 4,500 km) with speed of at least 50 Mbit/s; and
    • all other railways (→ approx. 20,000 km) with speed of at least 50 Mbit/s.

Further details can be found under the following link.

What has the government said regarding spectrum licenses for commercial use?

The government announced the following: Germany needs a high-capacity mobile communications network throughout the country so that all regions, households and companies can benefit equally from the advantages of digitization. This applies not only to the major conurbations, but also to rural regions. A complete mobile voice and data supply is long overdue. For this reason, radio gaps should be a thing of the past as soon as possible. We are also pursuing the clear goal of making Germany the lead market for 5G in order to maintain prosperity and sustainable growth. Our country must remain a pioneer in innovation – 5G is an essential key technology for this(for more information click here).

In addition to that nationwide frequency spectrum, the BNetzA will allocate frequencies in the 3.7 to 3.8 GHz range separately for local 5G purposes upon request. In doing so, it intends to create the possibility for local and regional 5G networks to be operated – inside and outside of or on private properties. Thus, other companies will then be able to operate their own 5G local or regional networks. However, there will be neither an obligation for nationwide frequency holders to enter into a national roaming agreement with local 5G network operators nor with regional 5G network operators.

At the end of October 2019, the Federal Network Agency published a fee formula:

Fee = 1000 + B * t * 5 * (6a1 + a2).

"1000" indicates the base amount in euros, "B" refers to the bandwidth in MHz (i.e. minimum 10 to maximum 100 MHz), "t" is the duration of the allocation in years, "a" is the area in km² with a differentiation between residential and transport areas (a1) and other areas (a2) (for more information click here).

After the Federal Network Agency announced the start of the application procedures on 21 November 2019, frequency allocation applications can be submitted there.

Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?

The rules for nationwide 5G spectrum were published on 26 November 2018. Details can be found under the following link.

The rules for local 5G spectrum were published on 21 November 2019 (for more information click here).

What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?

The final award conditions and auction rules for the 5G spectrum auction in Germany stipulate that 5G frequency holders are obliged to negotiate the sharing of radio capacity with service providers on a non-discriminatory basis. However, there is no obligation to enter into an agreement.

Jens Neitzel
Dr. Jens Neitzel