Dissatisfaction with the mobile network in Germany is particularly high

Status: 06/10/2023 08:27 a.m

5G and fiber optic networks are being expanded. But Germany also has a lot of catching up to do. In a European comparison, the dissatisfaction of Germans with the mobile network is high, as a study shows.

Complaining about Telekom – that’s a kind of popular sport in Germany. If someone in your circle of acquaintances reports problems with cell phone reception or a disruption in their home WiFi, everyone just shrugs their shoulders. Telekom trouble seems to be an everyday phenomenon. Where “Telekom” does not necessarily mean the group based in Bonn, the big competitors are also part of the language.

Whether landline or mobile – a lot of discomfort

It doesn’t have to be like that. This is now shown by a Europe-wide study by the management consultancy BearingPoint. Accordingly, all other Europeans complain much less than the Germans. According to the study, for which a total of 10,850 people were surveyed, only 13 percent of those surveyed in Germany are satisfied with their mobile network.

The average for the other countries surveyed, France, Great Britain, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands, is 64 percent. The picture is the same for the fixed network: Germany has 14 percent satisfaction, the rest on average at least 58 percent.

Happier with 5G and fiber optics?

According to experts, this should be alarming for German network providers, and the Federal Network Agency can also take a close look here. Especially since the makers of the study establish a connection between the spread of modern technologies and customer satisfaction. “Our study clearly shows that customers with 5G and fiber optic access are the happier customers,” says Julius Hafer, Partner at BearingPoint.

So is the dissatisfaction so great because Germany is lagging behind so much in terms of 5G in mobile communications and fiber optics at home? In its annual report, the Federal Network Agency writes that billions have been invested in the network. The companies invested 13.1 billion euros in the telecommunications market in 2022. “In the fixed network, investment activity focused on fiber optic expansion. In mobile communications, the focus was on the expansion of 5G networks,” says the report.

Investment came late

In fact, Germany is currently ahead in Europe when it comes to investment sums and growth rates. What sounds progressive is also proof that the investments started very late. The same report by the Federal Network Agency states that there are currently around 3.4 million active fiber optic connections.

Another study on fiber optic expansion shows what this number means in a global comparison and how far Germany is now behind on this topic. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also from 2022, Germany has an 8.11 percent share of fiber optic connections.

Italy has over 16 percent, Switzerland 26, Sweden is almost 80 percent and Spain is over 81. Germany is far from the global average of 35.88 percent.

“Good, but still not good enough”

According to the Federal Network Agency, one reason for the low spread of fiber optic connections is the use of technologies such as so-called VDSL vectoring. With this technology, old copper lines are pushed to peak performance. In other European countries, these have long since been exchanged and replaced with fiber optics, also because there are political regulations on this.

Telekom, which relies fully on vectoring, recognizes the basic thesis of the study: “The higher the bandwidth, the higher the level of satisfaction.” However, the company refers to other customer satisfaction surveys that come to different conclusions. Nevertheless, “Telekom’s fiber optic expansion has picked up speed enormously.” In the current year one wants to offer three million new households a connection. Vodafone made a similar statement: “The networks in Germany are good, but not good enough.”

Telephoning on the train from 2026?

When it comes to 5G, Telekom’s biggest competitor even sees Germany ahead: “In mobile communications, Germany even plays a global pioneering role in 5G broadband technology. No other technology has ever been rolled out here so quickly.” However, the company also recognizes that due to the continued increase in demand for data by more than 30 percent annually, “investments in further network expansion” must follow. Better political framework conditions are needed for this.

Telekom refers to cooperation agreements with Deutsche Bahn and Autobahn GmbH. All dead spots along the roads and railway lines are to be closed by 2026 “so that calls and surfing can be made without interruption”.

Expansion creates frustration

The makers of the study see another reason for the disastrous performance in customer satisfaction: poor communication. “Improving the network quality and thus investing in the network infrastructure must be a priority for the operators, just like better communication of these advantages,” says Julius Hafer.

The expansion of 5G and fiber optics is causing frustration, especially in public perception. It is not necessarily one’s own access to the Internet, the speed or the stability of the mobile network that largely explains the German dissatisfaction – but also the knowledge that other countries have long been better positioned for the future.

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