Telefónica readies 5G standalone launch in Germany

Telefónica Deutschland (O2 Germany) flagged the imminent launch of its 5G standalone (5G SA) offering, becoming the second mobile network operator (MNO) in Germany to launch services that rely solely on a 5G core network.

The operator said it will market 5G SA services under the 5G Plus brand starting from October 10. According to Chief Technology & Information Officer Mallik Rao, the 5G SA network is currently available to more than 90% of the population in Germany. “By the end of 2025, we will provide the whole of Germany with 5G Plus, giving digitization a massive boost,” he proclaimed.

O2 Germany also claimed that its customers will be the first in Germany to be able to make mobile calls via the entire 5G network owing to the implementation of voice-over-new-radio (VoNR) technology. The MNO further noted that it has been using 5G SA technology in 5G campus (or private mobile) networks for enterprise customers since 2020.

5G Plus will make use of frequencies designated for 5G in the 700 MHz, 3.6 GHz and 1800 MHz band through dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS). Smartphones that support the technology currently include the Samsung Galaxy S22 and S23 series as well as the Xiaomi 12 and 13 series. There are no charges for the 5G SA service, at least initially. 

Two out of three

O2 Germany is following in the footsteps of domestic rival Vodafone Germany, which launched 5G SA services to the wider market under the 5G+ moniker in March 2022. The operator had already switched on the technology in April 2021. 

In August 2023, Vodafone said 5G+ was available to 37 million people in Germany, or 45% of the population. A total of 13,000 antennas in 4,300 locations have so far been activated with 5G SA technology. Vodafone has also switched on VoNR functionality in Frankfurt and Leipzig and parts of Düsseldorf. 

Meanwhile, Telekom Deutschland has yet to officially announce the availability of 5G SA despite previously indicating that the service would be launched in 2022. It continues to make progress on its 5G SA network. In August, it said about 9,700 antennas were transmitting at 3.6 GHz in over 750 locations. 

To be sure, 5G SA launches remain relatively thin on the ground at a global level. The Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) regularly provides updates on 5G SA deployments.

In its July 2023 update, it said at least 36 operators in 25 countries and territories are now understood to have launched or deployed public 5G SA networks, two of which have only soft-launched their 5G SA networks. A further 19 are believed to be deploying or piloting the technology, while 29 are in tests or trials. 

Overall, the GSA said it has identified 115 operators in 52 countries and territories worldwide that have been investing in public 5G SA networks in the form of trials, planned or actual deployments.