21. November 2023
  • Benchmark

Mobile Networks 2023:
What’s Germany’s Best Network?

All three providers tested have achieved improvements compared to the previous year and the areas with inadequate coverage have continued to shrink.

What is the best mobile network in Germany?

Together with our long-standing partner CHIP, NET CHECK once again carried out what is probably Germany’s toughest mobile phone test this year to answer this question.

Our measurement technicians covered around 11,000 kilometres: 8,367 km in special measurement vehicles, 2,662 km in trains and 72 hours on foot in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Leipzig. We also used popular apps to collect data on the network availability of over two million smartphones – with the express consent of the users, of course. This resulted in almost 1.4 billion data samples covering an area of 191,627 square kilometres.


Deutsche Telekom ahead in the overall ranking and for 5G

Telekom was once again able to defend its top position from last year: it won both the overall ranking of the test as well as all partial rankings for 5G, long-distance trains and the five major cities that we analysed in more detail: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and Leipzig. The former state-owned company can be pleased with an overall score of 1.2 (according to school grades) and even leads the 5G ranking with the top score of 1.0. For the first time, we can also give Telekom a very good score for long-distance trains – albeit only just.


Vodafone follows in second place with an overall score of 1.4, which is also very good. Vodafone also came second in each of the sub-ratings – the only exception being Munich, where it came third behind O2. O2 remains at the bottom of the rankings and, with a score of 1.7, just fails to achieve a very good overall rating this year. In the 5G evaluation, the Telefónica subsidiary achieved a very good 1.3, but is still behind Vodafone, which received a 1.2. The consistently very good ratings for 5G show that the network operators have made significant progress in expanding this technology compared to the previous year.


Detlef Zernick, founder and CEO of NET CHECK: “The major investments in the network infrastructure and the rollout of 5G are leading to a significant improvement in quality.”


Urban-rural divide still hurts

Although network expansion is developing positively across the board, there are still huge differences in terms of network quality in urban and rural areas. This can be seen, for example, in the rate of dropped calls or the failure of data downloads in parallel with calls. The CHIP network test also shows that urban centres benefit in particular from the advantages of 5G expansion.


The urban-rural divide is particularly evident when the network is not very good. Our experts determined the speed at which the worst ten per cent of all downloads start. For Deutsche Telekom, this threshold is 122 Mbit/s in cities, while in rural areas ten per cent of all downloads were slower than 37 Mbit/s – that’s less than a third. The situation looks particularly critical for the provider O2, as this value is only 6.6 Mbit/s in rural areas.


“These figures make it clear once again that the network infrastructure in rural areas urgently needs to be improved in order to guarantee the possibility of mobile communication in all regions,” comments Wolfgang Pauler, Head of the CHIP Test Centre, on the results.


Increasing willingness to innovate when it comes to 5G

Progress in 5G expansion has made a decisive contribution to the significant improvement in network quality. Back in the summer, the Federal Network Agency reported impressive coverage of 89 per cent by at least one network operator. A milestone for the establishment of 5G in the German mobile communications sector. A look at the Vodafone figures shows that 5G is suitable for the mass market: 43 per cent of smartphones in the Vodafone network already support 5G.


It is encouraging that the network operators have started to take the next steps. For example, the introduction of 5G Standalone (5G SA), which enables independent data connections without relying on LTE, is now imminent.


Wolfgang Pauler says: “The industry is showing a great willingness to innovate here. O2 and Vodafone have already partially completed the switch to 5G Standalone. Deutsche Telekom, which has so far refrained from doing so for private customers, could soon follow suit. They could use it to offer new services, such as direct calls via 5G or customised services.”



High data quality and results that are close to the user experienc

NET CHECK and CHIP go to great lengths every year to determine the quality of mobile phone networks and attach particular importance to high data quality. The measurement data had to pass a comprehensive quality check in order to be included in the evaluation: All data samples were scrutinised and those that did not meet the high quality standards and accuracy requirements were discarded.


The data experts at NET CHECK developed special AI and machine learning methods to enable a reliable data check for these enormous amounts of data. The test concept is created by CHIP and NET CHECK and adapted to market developments and current customer behaviour every year in order to reflect the actual user experience as realistically as possible.


Read the full article in CHIP here.