Andreas Scheuer of the CSU is rightly considered by many people to be one of the most unpopular federal ministers of all time. In particular, the toll disaster is still being blamed on the former federal transport minister today. Now, more internal documents have surfaced that, far from washing the reputation of the incumbent member of the German Bundestag clean, could stain it even further. After all, Scheuer apparently entered into a deal that denied discounters access to the 5G mobile network. This was because the network operators themselves wanted to sell this exclusively in the form of premium rates.
Andreas Scheuer made 5G deal with network operators
In Germany, there is no minister for telecommunications, digitization or even the Internet. Instead, these areas of responsibility fall under the portfolio of the Federal Minister of Transport. It is therefore not surprising that we are sometimes regarded as a developing country in the area of digitization. Nor is it surprising that new accusations have been made against the former Federal Minister of Transport, Andreas Scheuer (CSU). The top CDU/CSU politician, who is currently being investigated by the Berlin public prosecutor’s office for making false statements in the committee of inquiry into the toll disaster, is now being accused of having concluded a deal with major network operators to the detriment of discounters and ultimately consumers themselves. The former minister is said to have indirectly denied so-called MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) access to the coveted 5G network.
MVNOs include well-known telecommunications companies such as 1&1 and Freenet. As internal documents now suggest, the ministry is said to have prevented a so-called service provider obligation. This was supposed to oblige large network operators to give other companies access to their own 5G network. As Handelsblatt reports, the Federal Ministry of Transport, under the leadership of Scheuer at the time, is even said to have put pressure on the Federal Network Agency to urgently refrain from imposing a corresponding obligation. But the deal was not free for the network operators, of course. For their part, they were to pledge that mobile communications in rural regions of Germany would be improved. Since this is not really the case even in 2023, at least one side has not kept its end of the bargain.
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False testimony before the Federal Administrative Court?
The more one looks into the documents brought to light, the more serious the resulting accusations seem to be. Finally, a false statement is again in the room. In this case, it relates to a hearing before the Federal Administrative Court in 2021, where the court examined whether the auction of the 5G networks in 2019 had been conducted legally. Here, the Federal Network Agency seemed to bow to pressure from the Federal Ministry of Transport. In the end, the authority stated that it had only decided in favor of the relevant rules because of “technical considerations.” The whole thing was then confirmed once again by the Federal Ministry of Transport itself. A spokeswoman stated that there had not even been an “attempt to unduly influence the Federal Network Agency.”
Motives of the major network operators
The motives of the large network operators such as Vodafone are understandable. In a sense, the latter wanted exclusive rights to sell 5G tariffs. If MVNOs such as 1&1 had emerged as additional competitors, the profits of the large network operators would naturally have been significantly lower. Hannes Ametsreiter had clear words on this subject. The then head of Vodafone spoke out clearly against a service provider obligation. In his view, this would have favored MVNOs, since they “do not build the infrastructure themselves, but want to use national roaming to connect to the network of other operators.
The opposition in the Bundestag at the time, on the other hand, was in favor of an obligation. Several voices, especially from the Green Party, called for this. Of course, the same also applied to the MVNOs themselves. They pointed out that opening up the market would also ensure “attractive prices. This is particularly important for end customers. We are curious to see whether this will be another blunder that underscores what a glaring miscast Andreas Scheuer was as Federal Minister of Transport.