Deutsche Telekom has declared almost blanket coverage of 5G in Germany, while rival Vodafone is talking up carrier aggregation developments and plans to launch voice over the latest generation of mobile technology.

“5G coverage on the Telekom network is now almost the norm,” the German incumbent said late last week, as it publicised its latest mobile network expansion milestones. Specifically, it announced that 5G is now accessible to 95% of households in the country, compared with LTE, which reaches 99%.

Doubtless there are plenty of people in Germany still bemoaning the lack of 5G in their area: it’s always the way with this type of network coverage announcement, and let’s not forget that houses are much more densely packed in urban areas. But nonetheless, the incumbent is making fairly rapid progress with its 5G rollout.

“We are increasing the pace of mobile communications expansion,” said Abdu Mudesir, Managing Director of Technology at Telekom Deutschland, in a German language statement. “More than 95% of the population can already use 5G from Telekom, and by 2025 we will reach 99% of the population,” he said, reiterating a target the telco has long held.

In the past six weeks, Telekom Deutschland has upgraded its mobile offering at almost 1,000 sites. It rolled out 173 new sites, which are now on air offering LTE and 5G, and boosted capacity at 824 existing sites. In all, the operator says it has north of 8,600 5G antennas across Germany transmitting 5G signals at 3.6 GHz frequencies.

As has become usual in the German telecoms space, when one operator brags about its network coverage, another quickly follows. This time Vodafone took up the baton, starting the week with the announcement that it is ready to launch 5G voice.

Well, sort of. “From summer,” Vodafone Germany customers will be able to make calls using Voice over New Radio (VoNR) in certain locations, the telco said, without providing anything more concrete on time or place. With its main rivals having trumpeted their first VoNR calls as long as 18 months ago – admittedly the first test calls, but still – you could argue that Vodafone is a bit behind the curve here, but it’s questionable how much consumers will be aware that voice calls are falling back to VoLTE or even 2G. However, Vodafone insists that putting voice over 5G helps conserve battery, makes call set-up faster, and improves clarity, so there are clearly benefits to end users…as well as to the operator, of course.

Vodafone noted that it is also adding 700 MHz spectrum into its carrier aggregation programme, alongside 3.5 GHz and 1800 MHz, and has thus far covered 500 locations therewith. It has plans to “gradually” extend three-band CA to other places, it said.

“We are not only expanding our 5G network across the board. We are also strengthening it by bringing new technologies to the network and thus making the potential of 5G tangible for our customers,” said Tanja Richter, head of technology at Vodafone.

Vodafone buried the data on its network expansion at the end of its announcement, perhaps because its figures look a bit weak compared with Deutsche Telekom’s.

The operator has rolled out 119 new LTE base stations and 26 5G stations since the start of the year, it said, as well as adding LTE or 5G technologies to more than 500 existing sites. It has equipped 37,000 antennas with 5G, including 3,400 with 5G+, the brand name the telco gives to its standalone 5G offer, sporting 10,000 5G+ antennas.

The tone of the operators’ announcements suggests that the 5G coverage race is still on in Germany. But with networks now reaching a high proportion of households, telcos arguably need to focus on experience, rather than shouting about reach.

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