Germany's two largest telecommunications carriers have announced a "significant" expansion of their partnership, with Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica Deutschland to work together on interconnecting their mobile and fibre networks.
Under the expanded agreement, around 5,000 Telefonica Deutschland mobile base stations will be connected using Deutsche Telekom's fibre-optic backhaul, which they said would enable 5G upgrades in future.
The two had first signed a mobile backhaul contract back in 2011, with Deutschland Telekom MD Dirk Wössner calling the expansion "an important step toward ensuring the future viability of Germany's mobile communications infrastructure".
"The resources that we save will be dedicated directly to our own network upgrades and the development of 5G," Wössner said.
"Deutsche Telekom is building and operating the largest fibre-optic network in Germany by far.
"Utilising our infrastructure together with Telefonica ... will benefit Germany and millions of people."
Telefonica Deutschland CEO Markus Haas added that using existing infrastructure rather than building out its own will mean an acceleration of its mobile network expansion, enabling it to "get a significant portion of our mobile base stations in shape for the future 5G standard".
"As a result, our customers will benefit directly from a more powerful mobile network and a better user experience," Haas said.
Deutsche Telekom has been upgrading its network ahead of 5G, in December last year signing a five-year contract with Ericsson to lay the foundations across its mobile network as part of what it called an "important step towards 5G".
Under the partnership, Ericsson is supplying its multi-standard radio access network (RAN) using its Baseband 6630 product and radios for one of Deutsche Telekom's two market areas across Germany, providing radio system products for both macro and small cell sites along with Ericsson Network Manager.
Ericsson is also supplying hardware and software solutions and support.
"We listened to Deutsche Telekom and understood their urgency to have 5G-ready infrastructure in order to stay at the forefront of customer service in Germany. We can run multiple standards on the same baseband hardware, and a 5G upgrade will be able to be performed by a simple software download to the radio sites," Ericsson senior VP and head of Market Area Europe and Latin America Arun Bansal said at the time.
"During these deliveries, we will use the experience from our 5G activities around the world to be sure that Deutsche Telekom has the most advanced hardware and software in the industry."
Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn last year told ZDNet that Germany's largest mobile telco is ready for 5G, with its live 5G New Radio (5G NR) trial network in Berlin the first in Europe to be deployed across commercial sites.
Deutsche Telekom's Berlin network, launched in October as part of its 5G Haus development program, was constructed in partnership with Chinese networking giant Huawei.
Deutsche Telekom has also worked with Intel on 5G, making use of its x86 chipset and 5G Mobile Trial Platform, and with SK Telecom on federated network slicing technology and on applying the South Korean telco's quantum-safe system to its trial network.
On the Internet of Things (IoT), Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone Group in June announced the completion of international roaming trials of narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technology across Europe.
Using Deutsche Telekom global SIMs on the Vodafone Spain network and Vodafone global SIMs on the T-Mobile Austria network, the telcos tested commercial NB-IoT modules and features such as Power Saving Mode (PSM) and Long Periodic Tracking Area Update (TAU).
"Deutsche Telekom has successfully introduced and developed NB-IoT networks across most of its European footprint, and we are very pleased to see the ecosystem rapidly expanding," head of IoT for Deutsche Telekom Ingo Hofacker said earlier this year.
"First commercial offers are available on a national basis already, but now operators need to satisfy customer demand for international coverage and service continuity as well."
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