Mobile network expansion: Scheuer’s fight against dead spots comes to a halt

The development of the state mobile communications infrastructure company (MIG) is making slow progress. The controversial funding facility, which is subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), aims to close dead spots with the help of a billion-dollar budget. At the request of the redistribution policy spokesman for the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Victor Perli, Andreas Scheuer’s (CSU) house was unable to provide a current number of employees, nor to indicate which people are on the supervisory board, steering committee and advisory board and may have already met with what result .

The BMVI writes in the heise online report to Perli that the development of the MIG required by the Bundestag in 2019 is currently being advanced by a special staff. This consists of the managing director of the company, employees of the federally owned company Toll Collect, where MIG is docked, and representatives of the Scheuer department. At least the “preparatory activities for the search for personnel” are “almost complete”. The MIG management had also “already held numerous interviews with potential executives”.

Actually, the MIG should start fighting the white spots on the map of mobile phone coverage as early as 2020. In its digital agenda 2021 at the beginning of the year, the CSU once again promised to plug all radio gaps with stationary and mobile masts by 2024 at the latest. Since the beginning of December it was clear that MIG should be based in Naumburg. However, there is not yet a corresponding branch there: A “suitable property” has meanwhile been “identified”, the BMVI announced. It hopes: “A corresponding lease will be signed shortly.”

Even if the firm seat is still missing, the MIG has not been idle during its rump operation, according to the ministry. She developed the basic IT structure for a geoportal and the geodata analysis as well as “procured and aggregated the data relevant to the objective assessment of the supply situation” for example on the existing supply, traffic, socio-economy and topology from valid sources. On this basis, a procedure for the “objective identification, clustering and prioritization” of white spots had been developed.

In the first supply analyzes, 60 potential areas and 17 specific locations with medium to high funding potential are said to have been defined, according to the BMVI. A market research process is now being started for these in parallel with the notification of the funding guidelines to the EU Commission. At the same time, MIG “holds regular discussions on cooperation with the relevant parties involved in mobile communications funding and with the relevant data providers”.

Until recently, funds for administrative expenses of the MIG and for the implementation of the federal government’s mobile communications strategy in the amount of 35 million euros were blocked in the federal budget. According to the BMVI reports, the Federal Ministry of Finance lifted this block on March 25th. In total, Scheuers’ department applied for the clearance of 160 million to start business.

For the implementation of the federal government’s mobile communications strategy and for its own operation, the MIG is to have funds amounting to five billion euros from the digital infrastructure special fund by 2025. It is also planned that a further 1.1 billion euros will be added for funding programs. Much of the money is said to come from the auction of 5G frequencies, which ended at 6.55 billion euros.

Here, too, the flow of money stalls. In the 2020 budget year, only Deutsche Telekom paid the installment for the acquisition of the frequencies for the new generation of mobile communications, according to the BMVI report. Vodafone, Telefónica and 1 & 1 Drillisch did not transfer anything to the state treasury. Of the approximately 348 million euros expected revenue, only a little over 110 million could be received last year.

The BMVI reported, referring to the Federal Network Agency, that “no mobile network operator was able to fulfill the required” full coverage of the main traffic routes “within the deadline. All three current suppliers had submitted that this was based on temporary “impossibilities” of a legal or factual nature. The regulatory authority is now checking this “in each individual case at the locations concerned”. Only then can a decision be made about the “whether” and the amount of penalties or fines.

“For years, the federal government has been watching the mobile phone providers fail to meet their obligations in terms of network expansion,” says Perli, annoyed by the decision. “So far, corporations have got away with a lack of cell phone reception in towns and on railway lines.” The three defaulting payers would have made large surpluses, the shareholders waved “handsome dividends” for 2020.

The “new mega-authority” in the form of the MIG has long been criticized by the opposition. Perli also considers it unnecessary: ​​”The state should build the masts itself and bill the operators for their use,” the left-wing budget politician demands. The taxpayer would be “relieved in the long run and there is finally nationwide mobile phone reception”.


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