Deutsche Telekom has covered more than 2,000 “gray spots”—areas where 4G/LTE connectivity is available from only one operator—in partnership with fellow German operator Vodafone. The two companies are improving mobile coverage in these areas through network sharing, opening up each other’s network to customers. Vodafone and DT signed a cooperation agreement one year ago to cover over 3,000 gray areas, primarily in rural regions.
The expansion of each company’s network is not affected by the cooperation agreement. Both continue to invest to improving the infrastructure of their own mobile networks. In the future, network sharing will remain limited to selected rural areas in order to close coverage gaps.
In addition, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica (Germany’s third major operator) are cooperating to build up to 6,000 transmitters over the next three years to close gaps where there is no mobile coverage at all, known as “white spots.”
On the theory that a rising tide can lift all boats, Germany’s major mobile operators are working together to improve the nation’s mobile coverage. One might imagine that in a “gray spot” where only one operator has coverage, that operator would prefer to have the mini-monopoly and not work to help a rival to provide its customers with connectivity there. However, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Germany clearly take the opposite view.
What is interesting about the plan established under their partnership is that no new construction is necessary to eliminate the gray spots. All that is required is for one operator to grant the other roaming privileges there, so that the second operator’s customers would automatically and seamlessly connect while there, over the network of the first. So by a simply act of network sharing, gaps are closed and Germany gets closer to an uninterrupted 4G network of networks.
On the other hand, closing “white spots” requires investment in infrastructure. All three major German operators have been cooperating and will continue to do so, building as many as 6,000 new transmitters in order to ensure that there is no place in the country, no matter how remote, where there is no mobile connectivity available.
The elimination of gray and white spots alike is good for any and all operators, because when mobile users feel certain that they will be able to use their devices everywhere and always, they will feel greater confidence in the mobile experience generally. And that increased confidence and trust in mobile operators in general will drive greater data usage, greater willingness to subscribe to more advanced plans and, ultimately, more loyalty to operators. Noting that these initiatives apply to 4G, we can add that in the 5G rollout which is currently afoot, the operators will of course also want to prioritize full coverage and avoidance of spots both white and gray.