United Internet CEO Ralph Dommermuth warned construction of subsidiary 1&1 Drillisch’s 5G network would be delayed as measures in place to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 (coronavirus) in Germany hampered access to key sites, Handelsblatt reported.

During a press conference, the executive said the closure of some building authorities meant it was unable to get permits to lay the fibre cables needed as backhaul for the new network.

The company did not indicate how long the delay would be, nor offer an anticipated completion date.

Germany is one of the many European countries currently on lockdown, with non-essential services across the country closed in an attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19. On Saturday (28 March) Bloomberg reported these restrictions were unlikely to be lifted until 20 April at the earliest.

Even prior to the outbreak, the operator had not publicly estimated a launch date for its network, but announced several significant steps in its buildout plans.

In December, 1&1 Drillisch signed a deal to lease 5G spectrum from Telefonica Deutschland until its allocation in the 2GHz band was available, expected to be 2026. Telefonica was obliged to strike the deal as part of an earlier agreement with regulators.

It also has an interim roaming agreement in place and committed to government rural coverage proposals.

United Internet is one of Germany’s largest internet service providers and currently runs consumer fixed and MVNO services under the 1&1 Drillisch brand, using Telefonica’s network.

In 2019 the company committed €1.1 billion at the country’s 5G spectrum auction to become the country’s fourth mobile operator.