As part of its commitment to ensure Germany’s telecom providers are delivering on promised speeds, the country’s regulatory authority, the Bundenetzagentur, has announced a series of public hearings. These are intended to assess the agency’s determinations of what mobile speed reductions constitute a “considerable, continuous or regularly recurring deviation.” The objective, according to the agency’s president Klaus Mueller, is to further the development of a method for consumers to ensure that they are receiving the mobile speeds and performance advertised with their plans.
With the Telecommunications Act (TKG) signed into law in December of 2021, German consumers are now entitled to terminate their contract or pay a reduced fee if the promised network speeds are not delivered. In order to make this determination, the agency is discussing how to accurately, comprehensively and fairly assess mobile speeds. Measuring mobile network speeds is more complicated than measuring fixed network speeds, since mobile service is not typically provided at a fixed location.
In this initial consultation, the regulator proposes that “unacceptable reductions” of advertised speeds would be speeds that are reduced by more than 75% in urban areas, more than 85% in suburban areas and more than 90% in rural areas. To assess mobile speeds, the Bundenetzagentur proposed thirty measurements to be taken over five calendar days, with six measurements taken each day. To reduce the impact of network congestion and one-off disruptions, a plan would only be categorized as failing if it measured below the minimum established standards for a majority of these days.
The Bundenetzagentur is also planning a mobile phone speed measurement tool application that will help consumers verify their complaints.
This is an interesting initiative from the German telecom regulator. On the one hand, this move is meant to ensure that citizens are receiving the level of network service advertised by their providers. In addition, instituting a widespread program to measure the quality of mobile service and delivering clear cut performance metrics will provide other benefits such as helping consumers differentiate between providers, increasing product transparency, and incentivizing network investment by operators.
On the other hand, this kind of comprehensive measurement will be difficult to accomplish. Mobile service quality varies depending on geography, population density, network traffic, and more. Clearly the Bundenetzagentur understands this complexity, but there is much work to be done if the measurement is to be successful. If the metrics and tools created are incomplete or flawed in ways that allow operators to find a workaround, then the results could be worse than regulators doing nothing at all.
Ideally, the Bundenetzagentur will be able to enlist the industry’s cooperation, which will help clear the many obstacles to a fair assessment of the quality of mobile service for all German carriers.