The Federal Cartel Office is investigating the cooperation between the mobile communications providers Telekom and Vodafone in the LTE network. A spokesman for the authority confirmed that the authority is checking the admissibility of the cooperation under antitrust law. “At the moment the Federal Cartel Office is in contact with the parties involved in the cooperation and other market participants”Authority chief Andreas Mundt said Handelsblatt.
The Bundeskartellamt generally welcomes cooperation to improve network coverage, but it should “don’t turn off the competition”. It is a matter of ensuring that the competition is not disadvantaged.
Vodafone and Telekom announced at the beginning of the year that they would jointly remove around 4,000 so-called gray spots on the cell phone card. These are antenna locations where only one of the two companies offers LTE coverage. Telekom and Vodafone want to grant each other access to the infrastructure there and thus reduce the effort required for the other to expand the LTE mobile network. For customers, this is intended to ensure better network coverage with the respective mobile network operator. Should be developed “gray spots” in rural regions and along important transport routes.
Telefónica or 1 & 1 Drillisch must not be disadvantaged
The Cartel Office wants to check whether competitors like Telefónica or 1 & 1 Drillisch could be disadvantaged by this cooperation. That could be the case if, with this step, such a cooperation with other mobile network operators “is not open in the same way and this puts them at a competitive disadvantage”. It should also be investigated whether an expansion of the cooperation with other mobile network operators could have even greater advantages for customers in the mobile communications sector.
A Telekom spokesman did not want to comment on request. Vodafone defended the cooperation with Telekom. This should create a better cellular network. In order to “we are also following the political will for more cooperation for better networks”said a Vodafone spokesman. The limitation of the cooperation to Telekom and Vodafone have technical reasons. “The technical design of this shared use in the existing networks is complex and can only be used for bilateral cooperation”said the spokesman.
Telekom and Vodafone are open to other partnerships
Vodafone and Telekom had announced that it was basically open to both companies to make similar agreements with other mobile network operators. Vodafone is currently “with Telefónica in first intensive talks”said a company spokesman. A Telefónica spokesman reported “advanced discussions with market participants”.
The network coverage in mobile communications is worse in Germany than in other European countries. For years there has been a search for a way to catch up in a European comparison. When auctioning the frequencies for 5G mobile communications, the Federal Network Agency obliged the mobile communications network operators to provide good network coverage, especially along train routes, motorways and federal highways. To this end, the authority suggested cooperation on network expansion.