Francesco Rizzato, Senior Technical Analyst
In our recent analysis, we found that the average 4G Availability in rural Germany was 73.5% experienced by our users, compared with 82.2% in urban areas. In this follow-up insight, we analyzed the range and spread of rural 4G Availability — which is a measure of the proportion of time our users with a 4G device and subscription were able to get a 4G connection — in the more remote parts of the country.
Our analysis of the 13 German states with significant rural populations found none of them had rural 4G Availability scores over 80%. Our users in the state of Saxony-Anhalt enjoyed the highest rural 4G Availability at 77.3%, while this score fell to 66.7% in Rhineland-Palatinate. 4G Availability in most of the rural areas across Germany ranges from 70% to 75%, meaning that our users are unable to get a 4G connection over a quarter of the time.
When we did a deeper dive beyond state-level into Germany's 294 rural districts, we found an even wider variation of 4G Availability scores. At the top end of rural districts was Saale-Orla-Kreis in Thuringia in Central Germany with a score of 88.2%, while the lowest score we measured was 48.3% in the district of Waldshut in Baden-Wurttemberg in the South. Interestingly, this wasn't the lowest 4G Availability we measured in Germany, as the urban district of Frankfurt an der Oder scored just 47.5% in our recent urban vs rural analysis.
In Northern-central Germany, we saw the lowest 4G Availability scores in the states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia were in the districts of Osterode am Harz, Harz and Nordhausen — in the Harz mountain region in the centre of the country.
Across Germany's eastern-most states (Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony) we observed the lowest scores in districts just across the border with Poland. In fact, many of Germany's districts with the lowest 4G Availability were on the country's borders. In the North, the district of Nordfriesland on the Danish border was the lowest in Schleswig-Holstein, while in Rhineland-Palatinate it was Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm bordering Belgium and Luxembourg, and in Baden-Wurttemberg in was Waldshut in the Alps, on the Swiss border.
On the eve of 5G, millions of Germans are still struggling to find 4G
We recently analyzed Germany’s spectrum use, and found that the country's main operators mainly deployed higher spectrum bands in more densely populated areas, while many rural areas only had access to 4G services on sub-1 GHz bands. The higher concentration of mobile infrastructure in Germany's cities is likely to be the main reason for the difference in 4G Availability we see between urban and rural districts.
Germany's operators are now pushing ahead with 5G rollout. But with rural 4G Availability still under 50% in some regions, there's going to be little incentive for German customers in those areas to upgrade to expensive 5G contracts unless operators roll out 5G to these rural areas more aggressively than they have with 4G to date.
With over two-thirds of Germany's population living in rural areas, unless Germany’s operators alter their approach, rural consumers will need to wait a long time before they can actually experience the benefits of 5G, as operators will start rolling out their next-generation networks in the major cities and urban districts.