Report of the Federal Network Agency

2020: High growth and high decline

19. Mai 2021, 16:23 Uhr | WEKA FACHMEDIEN, Newsdesk
Ausschnitt Titelseite Jahresbericht 2020
Annual report of the German Federal Network Agency: »Telecommunications providers have coped well with the increase in data traffic.«
© Bundesnetzagentur

The telecommunications sector grew surprisingly strongly in 2020 as a result of the pandemic - even fixed-network telephony. Another winner is the postal sector. By contrast, passenger rail transport is losing ground.

The volume of calls handled over fixed networks declined until 2019. In the pandemic year 2020, a higher volume of calls was made via fixed networks again, totaling around 104 billion call minutes. Around 155 billion outgoing call minutes were made via domestic mobile networks. The growth rate of mobile telephony in 2020 was 22 percent year-on-year.

The change in consumer usage patterns caused by the Corona pandemic also led to a significant increase in fixed-network-based data volumes to around 76 billion GB in 2020 (2019: 60 billion GB). This corresponds to an average monthly data volume of around 175 GB per user (2019: 142 GB). Mobile data volume continues to rise steeply. It was just under 4 billion GB at the end of 2020 (2019: 2.8 billion GB). This corresponds to a monthly data volume of just under 3.1 GB per actively used SIM card.

Abgehende Gesprächsminuten in Festnetzen.
Image 1. For years, the use of fixed-network telephone lines has been steadily declining. The Corona pandemic interrupted this trend in 2020.
© Bundesnetzagentur
Über alternative Anbieter geführte Gesprächsminuten.
Image 2. Alternative providers also benefited from the boom in fixed-network telephony in 2020.
© Bundesnetzagentur

Demand for lines with high nominal data rates continued to rise on the broadband market in 2020. At around 11.6 million of 36.1 million lines, the marketed data rate at the end of 2020 was at least 100 Mbit/s. Of these, 1 million lines had a marketed data rate of 1 Gbit/s or more (2019: 0.2 million).

At the end of 2020, 2.3 million broadband customers were still using lines with a nominal data rate of less than 10 Mbit/s (2019: 2.9 million).

Expansion of telecommunications networks

Investments in property, plant and equipment in the telecommunications market have been rising steadily for years. In 2020, at EUR 10.5 billion, they exceeded the previous year's figure by EUR 0.7 billion (seven percent).

The roll-out of fiber-optic infrastructure is continuing. The number of customers supplied with FTTB/FTTH or directly accessible increased to 6.6 million in 2020 (2019: 5.3 million). At the end of 2020, around 1.9 million active FTTB/FTTH lines were switched (2019: 1.5 million).

The roll-out of mobile networks is also making progress. The number of mobile base stations increased by 18 percent to 224,554 at year-end 2020. The number of LTE base stations in operation was 75,901, while UMTS accounted for 56,934 and GSM 72,209 stations. The number of 5G base stations was 19,510 (2019: 139).

Campus networks

Since November 2019, the 3.7 to 3.8 GHz frequency range has been available for campus networks. These frequencies can be used in particular for industrial automation but also for agriculture and forestry. By the beginning of May 2021, frequencies for 120 campus networks had been allocated. Since January 2021, additional frequencies can be allocated for 5G uses in the 24.25 to 27.5 GHz range. Five allocations have been made in this range to date.

The Federal Network Agency continues to register strong interest in frequencies for local networks. Foreign frequency authorities are also increasingly interested in the path chosen in Germany of a frequency range reserved specifically for campus networks.

Consumer protection

In 2020, the number of complaints received by the Federal Network Agency about unauthorized advertising calls increased significantly. It reached a peak of over 63,000, with a further significant increase of around 30,000 complaints by the end of April 2021. These complaints particularly frequently relate to advertising calls about insurance and financial products as well as energy supply. In 2020, around 18,000 complaints were received in the same period.

In 2020, the Federal Network Agency imposed fines of around EUR 1.35 million for unauthorized advertising calls. Fines totaling EUR 800,000 had been imposed by mid-May 2021.

In the area of number misuse, around 92,000 complaints were received in 2020. Up to and including April 2021, there has already been a significant increase in complaints here as well, with over 70,000 complaints. The focus is currently on complaints about fax and SMS spam.

By the end of April, 214 numbers had already been disconnected due to number misuse, and billing and collection bans had been issued for 4,304 numbers.

Expansion of the power grid

The expansion of the power grid continues to make progress. At the end of 2020, a total of around 3,524 km of power lines were in the approval process. Of these, 667 km of power lines under the responsibility of the Länder and 2,646 km of power lines under the responsibility of the federal government are in ongoing approval procedures under the Federal Requirements Plan.

Of the power lines approved under the Energy Line Expansion Act, 211 km are in the approval process (responsibility of the Länder).

Of the total 7,783 km of the 65 ongoing grid expansion projects, 734 km had been approved or were under construction by the end of 2020 and around 1,600 km of power lines had been completed. More than 3,500 kilometers of lines are in or before the planning approval process and thus in the final approval stage.

Overall, investment requirements for onshore power grids are estimated at up to around EUR 102 billion by 2030, EUR 55 billion for the transmission grid and EUR 47 billion for the distribution grids.

Electricity grid charges

At the beginning of 2021, the weighted average electricity network charges of the distribution network operators have hardly changed nationwide. The grid charge for a typical household customer at the grid operators regulated by the Federal Network Agency is 7.65 ct/kWh compared with 7.60 ct/kWh in the previous year (+0.7 percent). A commercial customer will continue to pay 5.80 ct/kWh. A medium-sized industrial customer will have to pay a network charge of 2.64 ct/kWh in 2021, compared with 2.62 ct/kWh in the previous year (+0.8 percent).

In some distribution networks, however, significant cost increases can be observed as a result of investments in the networks, e.g., due to the expansion of the distribution networks required for the energy transition. However, this expansion is by no means necessary in all distribution networks, which increases the differences between the network charges of the individual network operators.

Network charges for gas

Due to the market area merger of the two market areas Gaspool and NCG to form the Germany-wide market area Trading Hub Europe, there will be a change in charges for the transmission system operators as of October 1, 2021. The charges for the new market area will then be higher than the charges in the two previous market areas (+14 percent and +1 percent respectively).

For distribution network operators, the gas network operators regulated by the Federal Network Agency show a slight increase on average. For residential customers, there is an increase of around 2.6 percent. For commercial customers, the average increase is of a similar magnitude, and slightly higher for industrial customers (2.2 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively).


The development of the postal markets is characterized by digitization. Growth in courier, express and parcel services continued in 2020. This was due to the steady growth in online trade, which was further boosted by the Corona pandemic. Further declines were recorded for the mail sector.

The forecast mail volumes in the letter mail sector subject to licensing fell to 12.4 billion items in 2020 (2019: 13.6 billion). Deutsche Post Group continues to dominate the market for mail services subject to licensing. However, forecasts show a slight decline in Deutsche Post Group's share of mail volumes to around 85 percent.

In 2019, the companies carried a total of just under 3.1 billion parcel shipments. Based on the forecasts of the providers surveyed, there will be an increase in parcel volumes of around 17 percent (3.6 billion items) in 2020.


In the rail market, on the other hand, the Corona pandemic has led to a decline in traffic. Passenger rail transport in particular is still severely affected. In the first half of 2020, demand fell by 36 percent in local traffic; in long-distance traffic, by as much as 47 percent.

Titelseite Jahresbereicht 2020
174 pages: the 2020 Annual Report of the Federal Network Agency
© Bundesnetzagentur

For 2020 as a whole, the Federal Network Agency estimates the economic damage caused by the pandemic to rail companies in the German rail market at around EUR 3 billion.

The Federal Network Agency's annual report comprises 174 pages and can be downloaded as a PDF file from the website

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