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Deutsche Telekom plans 5G standalone launch in 2024

Deutsche Telekom (DT) flagged the launch next year of its 5G standalone (5G SA) offering in Germany, becoming the last of the three incumbent mobile network operators (MNO) to offer services that rely solely on a 5G core network.

In a round-up of its network achievements in 2023, Srini Gopalan, CEO of Telekom Deutschland (TDE), DT’s domestic national company (NatCo), said the operator aims to offer 5G SA to private customers in 2024.

Deutsche Telekom's business customers are already using the technology with functions such as network slicing. For example, for live TV transmission of media or in 5G campus networks for industry and research. “In the coming year, 5G SA should then offer all customers real added value,” DT said.

TDE had previously been expected to launch commercial 5G SA services in 2022 and then in 2023, but it always said it was in no rush to deploy the technology before it was really needed, or before there were enough devices available.

Now, DT indicates that 10,000 antennas are compatible with 5G SA in the 3.6 GHz band, covering more than 800 cities and municipalities. This is up from 9,700 antennas in August 2023. 

Overall, its current 5G network covers 96% of the population with more than 80,000 antennas. The goal is to cover 99% of the population with 5G by 2025. 

Furthermore, DT began the deployment of its open radio access network (RAN) in Germany in December, in collaboration with Nokia and Fujitsu. It expects to have 3,000 O-RAN compatible antennas by the end of 2026. 

Pipped to the post

Meanwhile, rival operators Telefónica Deutschland (O2 Germany) and Vodafone Germany already offer standalone 5G services.

O2 Germany began marketing 5G SA services under the 5G Plus brand 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 said.

Vodafone Germany 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.

Notably, 1&1 AG last week announced it is now operating Europe’s first fully virtualized 5G network based on open RAN technology. 1&1’s ambition is to become the fourth MNO in Germany.

Elsewhere, 5G SA deployments remain relatively thin on the ground. The recent edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report observed that an increasing number of operators are deploying 5G SA, although only around 40 service providers have deployed or launched 5G SA in public networks to date.

According to a November 2023 update from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 43 operators have deployed, launched or soft-launched 5G SA networks.

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