Drillisch signs contract with Telefónica for 5G national roaming

News

The newcomer can now start to build out its own infrastructure and become Germany’s fourth mobile operator.

German website Focus Online reports that the country’s newest mobile operator, 1&1 Drillisch, has accepted a contract from Telefónica for national roaming and for mobile bistream access (MBA) after a review by the European Commission (EC) which instructed Telefonica to improve its offer.

The national roaming agreement is initially for five years, back dated to 1 July 2020, and may be extended twice.

Already binding

The final details of the contract should be clarified by May, but the agreement, which will give Drillisch access to the O2 network, is binding. 1&1 Drillisch is a subdisiary of United Internet.

Drillisch needs to use its competitors’ networks to provide services while it builds its own, which was the terms of the 5G licences allocated through Germany hugely expensive and long 5G spectrum auction in 2019.

This was done to introduce a fourth mobile network operator into the German market, joining Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefónica/O2.

Acrimonius auction

The auction took a long time to set up because of squabbles and legal attempts to overturn the regulator's terms and conditions: as well as introducing a fourth operator the regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) also assigned some spectrum for private networks by industrial groups. Even after the auction ended, the regulator had to settle a dispute between Drillisch and Telefónica.

Drillisch paid €1.1 billion for its spectrum then entered into negotiations with its three competitors for a national roaming contract, finally settling for Telefónica/O2 with whom it already had an mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreeemnt.

However, that arrangement, set up in 2014, only covered older generations of technology – 2G, 3G and 4G – not 5G.