What English-speaking people refer to as a cell reception dead zone, is, in German, a “funkloch.” What was an annoyance years ago has become truly problematic during pandemic times, as people find themselves isolated and unable to connect, reports StarTribune.com.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier first made his grievances known two years ago, citing the cell connection shortfall. “I’m on the road a lot of the time,” said Altmaier. “I’ve told my office that I don’t want to be connected to foreign officials because I’m incredibly embarrassed when I have to call them back three, four times because I keep losing the connection.”
Politics aside, the poor coverage is something that politicians with opposite viewpoints in other arenas can agree on. “The COVID crisis has shown with a magnifying glass where the problems with our infrastructure are,” said Anke Domscheit-Berg, an opposition party official. “In the countryside we don’t just have bad cell coverage, there’s a lack of fiber connections, too.”
Coverage problems are exacerbated in the countryside, where proximity to a cell tower is crucial. Vodafone has said that it is working to close coverage gaps, and looks to 5G as a potential problem solver. The company says it installed or upgraded more than 2,300 stations so far this year, but explains it is hampered by government restrictions and site location issues.
“People would be very happy if they even had 4G here,” said rural resident Jan Raeder, who says that he needs to travel five miles to get within reliable cell tower range. Raeder noted believes the lack of broadband coverage keeps people away, which does make for more affordable housing costs. “Obviously young people who want to achieve something in life move away,” he said.
OpenSignal, a data analytics research firm, published recent findings that placed Germany in the 50th position out of 100 countries rated for their 4G mobile broadband standard. Ilja Nothnagel of the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, agreed with the assessment, noting that despite efforts to improve coverage, “The current 4G network still isn’t sufficient, especially in rural areas.”