Telefonica Deutschland, Germany’s largest operator, will start to pull together its network with that of E-Plus, which it acquired from KPN in 2014, to form a single infrastructure from January next year.

The process will start with the integration of the operators’ respective 2G and 3G networks, with 4G to follow in mid-2016.

Telefonica Deutschland closed the acquisition of smaller rival E-Plus in October 2014 and has only now announced plans to combine infrastructures, although national 3G roaming did start in May this year.

The acquisition created the country’s largest operator in terms of mobile connections ahead of T-Mobile and Vodafone. Now Telefonica Deutschland wants to match its rivals on network quality too.

“We’re talking about a major technical project that’s unique in Europe and will contribute as expected to the synergies we have promised the market,” said Markus Haas, chief operating officer of Telefónica Deutschland.

The aim is also to provide the best possible network experience for the combined operator’s base of 42.5 million mobile connections (GSMA Intelligence, Q3, 2015).

The network integration in 2016 will focus on more densely populated urban areas, with the aim of delivering benefits to as many consumers as quickly as possible.

In the first year, Telefónica Deutschland aims to reach more than 60 per cent of the population with its new, integrated network. The project is expected to take five years to complete.

In an interview a year ago CEO Thorsten Dirks set 2017 as a target when the new entity will have parity with its two rivals in terms of network performance.

The operator touted an award from October this year for best 3G coverage following the introduction of roaming in May.

Network integration usually involves some disruption but the operator says it can minimise consumer discomfort. In the last few months, the first localised test runs gave useful findings for the further integration.

Telefonica Deutschland said it can convert individual transmitter stations “within a few hours” and fully implement merger of the two networks in a given area “within a week”.