German operator 1&1 signed an agreement with network specialist GfTD on the construction of 500 antenna sites, marking a further step in the deployment of the market’s long-awaited fourth mobile network.

Ralph Dommermuth, CEO of 1&1 parent company United Internet, described GfTD as a proven expert in site acquisition and civil engineering.

He stated the deal would enable 1&1 to “push ahead” with its mobile network development.

The newcomer has already recruited Rakuten Group to design, build and operate a fully virtualised mobile network based on open RAN.

1&1 also noted it has been working with GfTD since the beginning of 2020 as part of the German government’s white spots programme to eliminate gaps in rural mobile coverage.

The move to build new antennas comes after the fledgling fourth German mobile operator signed a long-term tower rental agreement with Vodafone Group’s Vantage Towers allowing it to use up to 5,000 existing masts.

1&1 recently pledged to activate 1,000 5G base stations this year, which it is obliged to do under the terms of a licence it obtained in 2019.

Until the 1&1 network has been completed, customers will be able to use the Telefonica network under a national roaming agreement.

Competition builds
1&1 aims to compete with incumbent mobile network operators Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica Deutschland (O2) and Vodafone Germany, of which are in the process of expanding their 5G networks.

Deutsche Telekom recently reported 64,000 antennas in its German mobile network are now 5G compatible, of which 5,000 are in the 3.6GHz band and operate the standalone (SA) variant of the technology.

Telefonica Deutschland stated 10,000 antennas are now 5G capable, of which 5,000 are also transmitting in the 3.6GHz band. Vodafone Germany last month stated 4,000 of its base stations are SA 5G compatible.