Tuesday 5 May 2020

The Netherlands is Getting Ready for 5G Network Rollout

At the present time there exist three (down from four) physical network operators (MNOs) available in the Netherlands:

T-Mobile Nederland (by Deutsche Telekom) merged with Tele2

T-Mobile and Tele2 have agreed to a merger in 2017. About one year later this merger was approved by the EU authorities finalised in 2019. The combined company is a joint venture and led by T-Mobile. Tele2 has become an online brand only under the T-Mobile Group.

There are also a number of  MVNOs (virtual) providers that are being used by about 40% of the Dutch population. Prepaid SIMs are widely available in supermarkets or in telecom stores. Due to the Dutch net neutrality law, VoIP and tethering will not be blocked and traffic will not be prioritized.

All three mentioned networks have nationwide coverage in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE, Tele2 is 4G/LTE-only roaming for free on T-Mobile for 2G and 3G. These frequencies are employed:

2G/GSM: 900 MHz, 1800 MHz - to be shut down by T-Mobile in 2020
3G/UMTS: 900 MHz (B8), 2100 MHz (B1) - to be shut down by Vodafone in 2020 and KPN by 2022
4G/LTE: 800 MHz (B20), 900 MHz (B8), 1800 MHz (B3), 2100 MHz (B1), 2600 MHz FDD (B7), 2600 TDD (B38)

KPN is the biggest telecommunication company in the Netherlands with approximately 6.5 million customers. It used to be the state-owned telco, still owns the landline network and is clear market leader with its own brand KPN Mobile and through subsidiaries in the mobile market. As incumbent provider it claims the best coverage at the highest prices.

KPN has recently tested 5G technology between multiple locations in the Netherlands. Phone calls, video calls and data sessions were conducted from the latest 5G smartphones between the 5G indoor network in the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, the 5G Field Lab in the Port of Rotterdam and the Technology Lab of KPN in The Hague. KPN used 3.5 GHz frequencies for these recent tests.

The operator also announced 5G tests using spectrum in the 700 MHz,3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands.

VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands is a joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global and remains the 2nd network according to market share.VodafoneZiggo fared well in 2019 adding 76,000 subscribers in the last quarter and 269,000 over the full year. Its subscriber base nearly 4.5 million at end of 2019.

The operator has announced a final shutdown date for its 3G mobile network on 4th February 2020. The operator stated that ceasing 3G services will give it more capacity for 4G. Users without 4G-enabled devices can continue to access voice and data services on its 2G network (albeit at significantly slower data rates and with lower voice sound quality). Customers may also exchange an old SIM card for a new LTE SIM free of charge.

VodafoneZiggo as part of their GigaNet strategy  is switching on their 5G network using the Ericsson Spectrum Sharing solution enabling their subscribers to benefit from improved user experience.

The spectrum situation in the Netherlands is different compared to other European countries. In June of 2020, the 700MHz frequency will be auctioned, but the 3.5GHz band, which is currently being used by the country’s defense satellite system, will not be available by auction until 2022. By deploying Ericsson Spectrum Sharing already now, VodafoneZiggo can quickly introduce 5G over a wide area, using existing frequency bands and existing Ericsson Radio System equipment.

The Ericsson Spectrum Sharing software, which is commercially available, can run on any of the five million 5G-ready radios Ericsson has delivered since 2015.

The launch of 5G is a continuation of a long-standing partnership in which Ericsson delivers the majority of the mobile network technology and managed services to VodafoneZiggo. In January 2020, the partners launched a 5G co-creation environment, the 5G HUB, offering companies, startups and students the chance to explore 5G in practice.

Previously, the partners also achieved  the commercial launch of the country’s first end-to-end cloud based VoLTE network, and in February 2020, a 3G switch off was realized enabling VodafoneZiggo to leverage the 2100 MHz band and provide increased capabilities to end users.

T-Mobile is the 3rd network in the Netherlands. Here you can find the T-Mobile Coverage Map. 4G network is available for prepaid up to 100 Mbit/s. According to Open Signal, it has the best latency and speeds in the country in 2019.

T-Mobile added nearly 1.6 million retail customers in 2019, including 1.3 million acquired with Tele2, to reach a total of 5.6 million at year-end.

In 2017 T-Mobile has agreed to a merger with Tele2 on a 75:25 basis. This was approved in 2018 and their combined network is mostly marketed under the T-Mobile brand fighting for the no.2 spot in the Dutch market.

T-Mobile plans to close its own 2G network (not the 3G network like its rivals) in November 2020.
with all calling, texting and data services to be provided over 3G, 4G (and future 5G) networks.

Their strategy is in contrast to their competitors scheduling 3G shutdowns instead: Vodafone intends to switch off 3G in January 2020 and KPN has set January 2022 as its 3G closing date.

In October 2019, T-Mobile Netherlands announced it will start to test  5G on the 700 MHz frequency, after it received two test licenses from the government. T-Mobile was granted a regional two-month test license for testing on the entire 700 MHz band in the Hague region and surrounding areas.

The Dutch government is expected to raise at least 900 million euros ($992 million) from its first auction of 5G frequencies, which will take place this Summer.

The auction will include spectrum in the 700 MHz 1,400 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands.

The process will be carried out through several rounds. The country’s three largest operator — KPN, Vodafone Ziggo and T-Mobile Netherlands — are all expected to take part in the 5G auction.

The Dutch government also expects to carry out a spectrum auction to award frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band in 2022, as the band is currently being used for satellite communications by Dutch intelligence services.

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