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After 3G hype, 4G frequencies to go on auction in Germany

AFP · 11 Apr 2010, 09:46

Published: 11 Apr 2010 09:46 GMT+02:00

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In 2000, at the height of the tech bubble, telecom operators fell over themselves to snap up 3G or third generation mobile licenses in an auction in Germany.

In the hangover that followed, successful bidders were left drowning in a sea of debt, and 3G, once it eventually got off the ground, proved something of a disappointment.

Ten years on, it is the turn of 4G frequencies to go under the hammer in the western city of Mainz on Monday. But the German government expects to reap only a fraction of the €50 billion ($67 billion) it received last time.

But with the new technology promising nothing less than a revolution, interest among firms like Britain's Vodafone and T-Mobile is strong, with analysts predicting a windfall of €5 to €10 billion for Berlin.

This time around, operators are confident too that the technology will not disappoint and that it will be in the hands of consumers a lot sooner.

"Demand is well ahead of supply," said Matthias Kurth, head of the German telecoms regulator running the auction, with "severe competition" among operators like Vodafone and T-Mobile to grab a piece of the 4G pie.

In Europe's first 4G auction, a large part of what is up for grabs is the so-called "digital dividend," a chunk of frequencies left unwanted by television companies following their switch from analogue to digital broadcasting.

The 4G technology, known as Long Term Evolution (LTE), will mean that using your mobile handset just to phone people will become old hat since it will allow data to be transferred at breakneck speeds.

The resulting downloading capacities will make the mobile phone a powerful tool for surfing the Internet. Phone calls, too, will occur by Internet telephony, as happens on PCs now with programs like Skype.

Another advantage for both firms and users of the new technology will be that remote areas currently with little or no high-speed Internet will soon be covered.

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And with experts predicting a price war among operators, consumers may start to wonder whether they still need a mobile phone operator as well as a fixed net provider, since home computers could use the networks too.

"With LTE, mobile phone networks will become a real alternative to cable or DSL (broadband telephone connections)," said Herbert Merz, head of the German hightech association Bitkom.

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Your comments about this article

12:55 April 11, 2010 by bhaskartr
Mobile internet rates in Germany is very high. unless the prices come down to affordable , whats the use of having 4G for that matter even 3G. If mobile operators really serious about $G first they should try to bring down the rates.
13:49 April 11, 2010 by trident3b
in terms of rates I totally concur with bhaskartr. The costs are at times idiotic and roaming has been pure theft... with outfits like Vodafone paying their CEO Gent 60 million in bonuses albeit some years back. This sort of thing is unfair and disgusting.
17:35 April 11, 2010 by michael4096
Mobile internet rates in Germany is very high.
The going german monthly rate for a contract giving usb dongle and flatrate 3g access is around €20. Is this very high? Voda uk offer no flatrate but with dongle at 15 - 18 pounds pm. With increasing amounts of effectively free voice calls, this is becoming the only income the networks get so don't expect it to come down anytime soon - just building a national 3g network sets you back at least €5billion, LTE will double that

As far as roaming, the maximum rates are generally set by the EU today and there is no mileage in the service providers reducing it

The real disgrace in germany is the regulator - he could do an awful lot more to ensure better coverage for both mobile and fixed. All the big networks cover 95% - the same 95% - why are they not forced to cover the odd 5% between them?
20:25 April 11, 2010 by jamessnook
The price to use data in Germany is not just high, the implementation is utterly pathetic. This is the smallprint of the T-Mobile 10 euro a month flaterate Web n Walk contract for those customers with smartphones:

"Im Download werden im Inland Geschwindigkeiten bis zu 384 kbit/s und im Upload bis zu 32 kbit/s angeboten. »R-242»"

That is 0.38mbps download and 0.03mbps upload speed on HSDPA. iPhone users however get 1.25mbps down which is the minimum spec for HSDPA networks.

4G? What would be the point, they are unwilling or incapable of even using what they have, other countries do not seem so hamstrung.
22:22 April 11, 2010 by Frenemy
Echo post #4

That said...

Now I can't speak for the average German mobile user, but I for one want more bandwidth!!!

Anyone have an ~ETA on this (as in handset in hand)??
07:52 April 12, 2010 by ColoSlim
I like the 3G and am happy to pay for it with my contract with DT. I look forward to paying for 4G as long as it is not too much more expensive. We get lots of use from our iPhone and it is the most useful with 3G.

Hopefully someday mobile service will consolidate throughout the EU and roaming charges will disappear. It happened in the U.S. about a decade ago, so I figure it should happen anytime now.
11:09 April 12, 2010 by moistvelvet
IMO prices in Germany are not very high but very good value for money, seems that many people still want everything for next to nothing and are happy for the likes of myself to burdon the cost and drive competition. If you want premium service then you have to pay for it, some of us accepted the high costs of the dial-up internet in the early 90s, then ISDN and then DSL broadband. I don't want every Tobias, Rickward and Helmut to have access to a 20 Meg connection at unbelievably low prices, elitest perhaps but would everyone be happy if cheap cars and fuel allowed our roads and autobahns to be clogged up, or pubs overrun by non-regular punters drinking beer for 50 cents/litre? Sometimes prices need to remain high enough to maintain the satisfaction enjoyed by those who ddidn't consider too expensive in the first place.
12:33 April 12, 2010 by jamessnook
This has nothing to do with fair and is not good value. iPhone users get faster internet from DT than those of us who pay EXTRA on-top of our monthly phone bill for the privilege of use. We are paying alright.

And what we pay for is service crippled to a level below that of most of our neighbouring countries. It can be a struggle to even upload a photo or two from an Android device of all things. Something that is currently more advanced and net savvy than the iPhone is.

Why should anyone who pays this extra premium settle for service that is sub standard? Even the iPhone users HSDPA in Germany is slower than that in the UK and various other EU countries. They get the base minimum spec of the standard while the rest of us get stiffed completely with a harshly choked connection. Pictures timing out because the uplink is too slow? Voice search timing out? Tell me, please, why this is even nearly value for money when it is a paid extra.
12:52 April 12, 2010 by William Thirteen
the series of tubes is getting all clogged up!
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