What Do I Need to Know?
- Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom only offer 5G mobile plans, while O2 offers low-cost 4G plans
- O2’s offerings are the cheapest, including its two unlimited plans
- Vodafone and DT have the widest network coverage, while O2 has a roaming agreement with reseller Drillisch
Germany held its 5G spectrum auction, for the 2GHz and 3.6GHz bands, from March to June 2019, and Vodafone was the first operator to launch its network. Deutsche Telekom followed, and O2 was last to launch, in October 2020. All three operators based their initial launches on Germany’s largest cities, though the earlier launches for Vodafone and DT mean their networks now cover more of the population than O2’s. Operators are required to provide at least 100Mbps to 98% of households (the regulation specifies the required speeds but doesn’t explicitly refer to 5G).
What Are Operators Offering?
All of Deutsche Telekom’s plans are on its 5G network, so it doesn’t differentiate between speeds or data allowances for 5G, even on its prepaid plans. Data allowances range from 5GB per month for the lowest-priced tier, to unlimited for the highest. DT also charges a EUR39.95 connection fee when opening an account, which is reflected in the monthly price per GB in Table 1 below.
Each plan includes unlimited voice and SMS, as well as access to Wi-Fi and roaming in Europe, including Switzerland and the UK. DT claims its network is the largest in Germany, with over 90% of the population covered.
O2 is the only operator in Germany that offers non-5G plans. Its plans are split among Free S (small), which is LTE-only, Free L (large) and Free Unlimited. The S and L tiers are further split in two, with “boost” options that include twice as much data for EUR5 per month extra. The Unlimited tier also consists of two options, split by download speed: the lower-priced Smart option has a top speed of 10mbps, while the Max option costs EUR20 more per month and offers 500mbps, faster even than the 5G Free L options.
|Plan||Free L||Free L Boost||Free Unlimited Smart||Free Unlimited Max|
O2 charges a EUR39.99 connection fee, which is reflected in the monthly price per GB. All plans, including the LTE-only Free S options, feature unlimited voice and SMS, plus roaming in Europe. Consumers with the Mein O2 app can also claim an extra 10GB from the second month of their contract, and a further 500MB each month, through the app. Mein O2 also lets users of the Free L options share their data allowance among 10 different devices.
Like DT, all of Vodafone’s plans take advantage of its 5G network, where available. The range of data allowances is comparable to DT’s, but not quite as generous as O2’s. For the tiers with defined data allowances, any GBs of data that aren’t used in a month roll over to the next month. On top of that, Vodafone joins the other two operators in allowing consumers to use their voice, SMS and data in other European countries as normal, but with a EUR5.99 add-on to use their data in the US, Canada, Turkey and Switzerland.
None of the operators’ sub-brands or the major mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) offer 5G network access. Given that MVNOs and sub-brands are positioned for younger consumers or other value-conscious users, the operators are presumably using their main brands to upsell consumers to 5G plans. That said, as 5G becomes more established, it’s likely that 5G plans will filter through to sub-brands like DT’s Congstar before they’re made available to the true MVNOs.
1&1, part of Drillisch, acquired spectrum in the 2019 5G auction, and in 2021 concluded a national roaming agreement with O2 parent company Telefonica, allowing its customers to access Drillisch’s 5G network as it builds out its own.
German operators’ 5G offerings reflect their overall market strategy, in that they are positioned as premium products that aren’t accessible to consumers who get their mobile service through cheaper MVNOs or sub-brands. Moreover, as the main incumbent, Deutsche Telekom’s plans are the most expensive overall, both in terms of monthly price and cost per GB of data. O2 is the only operator that offers LTE-only plans on its main brand, presenting an opportunity to upsell users to its 5G plans without having to change from an MVNO.
|Plan||MagentaMobil L||Free L Boost||GigaMobil M|
The trend is similar among unlimited plans, which are available from all three operators. DT’s unlimited plan is the most expensive of the three, while O2 offers two tiers of unlimited plans separated by download speed. Its less expensive option, Free Unlimited Smart, offers a maximum speed of 10Mbps, compared with 500Mbps for the upper tier, and appears designed to drive users to the higher-cost option. It’s worth noting that this more expensive unlimited plan from O2 is still significantly cheaper than the unlimited plans from either DT or Vodafone.
|Plan||MagentaMobil XL||Free Unlimited Max||GigaMobil XL|