Berlin When it comes to the expansion of fiber optic networks, Germany has for years lagged behind in international comparison. According to statistics from the OECD last summer, more than 80 percent of households in South Korea and Japan, but also in Spain, are connected to fiber optic lines through which data flows at lightning speed and with reliable bandwidth around the clock. With a connection rate of 8.1 percent, Germany only came third from bottom in the ranking of the industrialized countries organization.
But for a good year now, there has also been movement in fiber optic expansion in Germany. For example, Telekom, which for years had focused primarily on optimizing existing copper lines, is pushing ahead with the expansion of its fixed network offering with fiber optic lines. This year alone, a number of three million connected households is being targeted, said CEO Tim Höttges in February. With the rapid expansion, however, the accusation is repeatedly made that Telekom is planning or building lines even though it has access to the lines of the competition.
In the meantime, for example, the residents of Glienicke in Brandenburg are supplied twice. In addition to the local provider DNS:NET, Telekom has also had its own fiber optic lines laid. What may still be worthwhile for everyone involved in the northern suburbs of Berlin could overturn the profitability calculations of Deutsche Telekom’s competitors in other regions.
The Swabian community of Gablingen made headlines nationwide. Telekom had originally planned to lay fast fiber optic lines there in 2025. However, after the competitor DeutscheOSS laid its cables, Telekom changed its plans and began installing its own fiber optic cables.
Fire letter to Volker Wissing: Telekom slows fiber optic expansion through “strategic manoeuvres”
The competitors of the Magenta Group have now sent a fire letter to Digital Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) via their industry associations and warned of the consequences of uncoordinated fiber optic expansion in Germany. In the letter, the broadband associations Anga, Breko, Buglas and VATM as well as the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU) accuse Telekom of using “strategic maneuvers” to slow down fiber optic expansion and thus endanger the federal government’s broadband expansion goals.
The associations complain that Telekom is competing with the existing fiber optic networks of competing companies with its own lines or is unsettling local residents with vague expansion announcements. Affected by Telekom’s actions are also networks of Telekom competitors that have been in the planning for some time. With this action, Telekom is destroying the business plans of the expanding companies and thwarting their expansion activities, the letter says. “Municipalities are left behind, which are often only partially expanded by Telekom in the end, and citizens without a fiber optic connection”. According to the current status of the investigations, this affects more than half of the postcode regions in Germany.
Telekom manager Thilo Höllen, who is responsible for the group’s broadband cooperation, always rejects these allegations. The so-called superstructure accounts for only a fraction of the network expansion in Germany, Höllen wrote in a guest article in the industry service “Tagesspiegel Background”. In 2022, the superstructure at Telekom was less than one percent. With the competition in fiber optic expansion, you ensure that in a few years you won’t have to discuss – local – monopolies with their disadvantages: “poorer quality at higher prices”.
Telekom acts unfairly
The Telekom competitors complain about the unfair actions of a dominant company. Announcement or the actual selective expansion only in particularly lucrative areas would make investment and expansion plans of competitors for the supply of entire communities unprofitable in the context of a mixed calculation. They call on the federal government, as the major shareholder of Deutsche Telekom, to put its 30 percent stake in the former state-owned company on the balance and to persuade Telekom management to change course with the fiber optic superstructure. In the letter to Wissing, the associations call on the minister to tackle the problem together with the telecommunications industry, the Federal Network Agency and the Cartel Office.
The opportunity to do so will soon arise: According to a spokesman, the Digital Ministry has commissioned the consulting company WIK-Consult from Bad Honnef to take a close look at the controversial double building. Concrete superstructure examples are to be examined and classified. The results are expected to be presented and discussed in mid-May with the ministry and those involved, including representatives of the industry, the Federal Network Agency and the public sector.
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First publication: 04/13/2023, 06:59 am.