Digital Participation

  • Material topic: Digital participation

As a European internet specialist, United Internet sees its role as building bridges to a digital future. Our goal is to offer consumers and companies greater and greater bandwidth for internet access and powerful cloud applications. In this way, we can provide full access to the numerous opportunities offered by the internet as a universal infrastructure for information, communication, entertainment, and e-business. United Internet wants to contribute actively to ensuring that nobody – regardless of their age, education, place of residence, or national origin – is left behind on the road to digitalization, and to give them the space and opportunity to roam the internet safely and confidently.

Germany’s Fourth Mobile Network

Our subsidiary 1&1 Drillisch AG successfully participated in Germany’s 5G frequency auction in the summer of 2019, laying the foundations for constructing the country’s fourth mobile network. As a new network operator, 1&1 has focused right from the start on innovative OpenRAN technology – a fully virtualized mobile network in the private cloud.

Building 1&1’s OpenRAN

We are working together with international software partners on our active network structure. Our partners are responsible for developing the passive infrastructure – the mast locations. 1&1 has entered into an intercompany agreement with its sister company 1&1 Versatel to connect the mast locations with the fiber-optic cables and to run the edge data centers in the new 1&1 OpenRAN. This gives it access to one of Germany’s largest fiber-optic networks.

The development requirements set by the Bundesnetzagentur (the Federal Network Agency) stipulate that all network operators should meet an initial milestone – establishing 1,000 5G mast locations – by the end of 2022. We have not been able to meet this initial interim target due to substantial and unexpected delivery delays by our key partner in terms of volume. We are doing everything in our power to fill the resulting gap together with our development partners.

Another Bundesnetzagentur requirement is to provide coverage to 25% of German households by the end of 2025. We are still aiming to meet the long-term target of providing coverage to half of all German households by the end of 2030 as soon as possible, despite the initial delays. All strategic approaches and technical procedures associated with the development of 1&1’s OpenRAN are discussed in detail, and resolved, in regular Management Board meetings.

Although significant delays in the provision of the passive infrastructure occurred in relation to the initial interim target, we launched the first service in the 1&1 mobile network as planned in December 2022 – a 5G fixed network product that was realized using the mobile network. This initial service, which had three mast locations as of December 31, 2022, serves as the basis for connecting the mobile services in future. More and more customers will be able to book it as network development ramps up. The service has shown that the technology behind our 1&1 OpenRAN works and that we have an OpenRAN that has been commercially launched.

The next step, which is scheduled for summer 2023, is to add mobile services. At this point Telefónica will provide us with the national roaming functionality that they are developing in parallel. This means that Telefónica’s network will automatically kick in everywhere where we do not yet have our own mast locations during the development phase for 1&1’s OpenRAN. This ensures that our customers will continue to receive the network services they are used to while the network is under development. In addition, 1&1 has entered into a partnership with Orange for international roaming. This allows us to offer reliable mobile telecommunications services to customers while they are abroad.

OpenRAN Technology

In contrast to traditional network architectures, the OpenRAN approach makes a strict distinction between software and hardware. Whereas the intelligence in conventional mobile networks is largely concentrated in the hardware at the various mast locations, all network functions for 1&1’s OpenRAN reside in the private cloud and are managed at the software level. All masts are connected by fiber-optic cables and equipped with gigabit antennas.

  • Edge Computing Permits Real-time Speeds

  • The plan is to establish more than 500 regional edge data centers for 1&1’s OpenRAN in the period up to 2030, creating a private cloud right across Germany. The data centers will be connected to the mast locations, which will be a maximum of 10 kilometers away, via fiber-optic cables. This means that applications running on this infrastructure will benefit from extremely short transmission routes.

  • Standardized Interfaces Ensure Manufacturer Diversity

  • Another key advantage of OpenRAN technology is its broad partner ecosystem. Whereas traditional mobile networks are frequently only provided by a single manufacturer, clearly defined standardized interfaces in 1&1’s OpenRAN permit flexible cooperation with different manufacturers on the market. As a result, we can choose from a wide range of servers and network technology when building Germany’s fourth mobile network.

  • Resource-friendly Network Development and Efficient Network Operations

  • We are planning to use existing mast locations as far as possible when building our mobile network so as to protect the environment and conserve resources as far as possible. We are working together with radio mast companies, which are permitting high-performance antennas to be erected and used for the long term at their mast locations.

    We aim to ensure efficient network operation by systematically separating software and hardware under the new OpenRAN approach. Our decentralized network infrastructure allows us to respond to demand and adapt capacity to local use frequency. Among other things, this includes automatically switching off servers, antenna components, or even entire cells when loads are low (e.g., in industrial estates at night). Cell loads are calculated continuously and predictive power-off mechanisms are activated automatically.

  • Security in OpenRAN Networks

  • As is the case with conventional mobile networks, ensuring the security of OpenRAN networks requires in-depth risk analysis and continuous monitoring of all security-related criteria. We have performed extensive risk assessments together with our equipment suppliers and operate a security management system that is certified in accordance with ISO 27001.

    We welcome the study by the BSI (Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security) on security in OpenRAN mobile networks and the security recommendations that this contains, and are in regular contact with the authority. In addition, 1&1 is a member of the international O‑RAN Alliance (German only), whose expert bodies analyze the security of OpenRAN technology in depth, and continuously enhance it.

Responsibility for Health in the Context of Digitalization

We focus at all times on the benefits for our customers in our role as Germany’s fourth network operator, as we do in other areas. We track the current state of knowledge about mobile network usage – and particularly 5G – continuously and in great detail. The effect on humans of electromagnetic radiation from mobile communications has been the subject of scientific research for decades now.

The Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (the Federal Office for Radiation Protection) constantly reviews the effect of electromagnetic radiation in mobile communications. According to the information currently available, it cannot yet be ruled out with confidence that the body’s ability to regulate heat may be disrupted if certain thresholds are exceeded, resulting in consequences for health. Nevertheless, the basic principle for 5G is the same as for previous mobile network standards: No impact on health at levels below the applicable limits has been proven. The Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz has confirmed that there is no reliable information at present to suggest that the new mobile network standard could affect our health.

The Federal Government is also attempting to deepen dialog with citizens and address any concerns relating to the new mobile network standard with its “Deutschland spricht über 5G” initiative. The goal is to provide information about 5G so as to further increase trust in, and acceptance of, this technology.

United Internet will continue to closely track research on mobile network usage, and will respond in a responsible manner should any actions become necessary.

1&1 Versatel’s Fiber-optic Network

The topic of digitalization is developing at an unparalleled speed. As the COVID-19 crisis showed us all, location-independent digital working is rapidly becoming a key issue. Companies in particular are more dependent than ever before on reliable network connections. 1&1 Versatel s product portfolio and consistent focus on business customers allow to respond appropriately to this need.

1&1 Versatel s fiber-optic network ensures economic efficiency and enables users to participate in increasingly powerful, rapid data transfer. Today’s technology now permits internet speeds of up to 100 GBit/s – the most powerful transmission technology by far. What is more, demand for greater bandwidth is constantly rising.

However, Germany still has some catching up to do when it comes to direct fiber-optic connections, which are not yet available everywhere. This is why we are continuously expanding our fiber-optic network:

  • Customer networks
    We are expanding our network by building networks for (major) customers

  • Industrial estates
    We are systematically adding connections to industrial estates

  • Expansion near railway lines
    We are continuously expanding our network – including via regional fiber-optic campaigns

  • Partnerships
    We are use existing fiber-optic infrastructure belonging to municipalities. 1&1 Versatel provides services here in a variety of areas and degrees of vertical integration, from network operations support down to wholesale telecommunications services

  • Acquisitions
    We acquire existing infrastructure

Extensive additions were already made to the network in recent years and more powerful network technology added to further enhance it for our customers. This continuous network expansion means that 1&1 Versatel has one of the largest and most powerful fiber-optic networks in Germany and already provides a large number of cities and municipalities with high-speed internet. Senior management monitors the number of fiber-optic connections commissioned and produced via the regular reports submitted to it. Our fiber-optic network was 55,459 km long at the end of the 2022 reporting period, compared to 52,574 km at the end of 2021.

Responsibility for Youth Protection

  • GRI 417-1

As a company, we advocate youth protection and education for children and young people on how to act online, since the internet is a key part of their everyday lives and is used for communication, researching lessons, and entertainment alike. However, in many cases children and young people are not media literate enough to deal with unfamiliar life issues they come across on the internet, or where inappropriate content is involved, and also lack the experience needed to assess the risks and protect themselves. Therefore, suitable measures and education on possible dangers and risks that are tailored to their levels of development are needed to ensure they are adequately protected and that they can use the internet with confidence.

United Internet ensures that both its own products and services and its partner offerings comply with the legal requirements for youth protection. Internal reviews are performed during product development and launches, and any necessary modifications are made, to prevent children and young people being confronted with inappropriate content. In addition, we take care to comply with youth protection legislation for both editorial content and advertising, and to find the right balance between providing a comprehensive range of information and protecting children and young people. Among other things, we do this by managing the way in which information is presented and the times at which it is transmitted.

We have appointed youth protection officers who act as contacts for youth protection. They advise the various departments and functions internally, handle external contacts in this area, liaise regularly with other youth protection officers, and represent Group companies in their dealings with associations and supervisory authorities. In addition, youth protection mailboxes have been set up for the 1&1, GMX, WEB.DE, and IONOS portals; the details are given in the legal notices and youth protection sections of the relevant sites. These mailboxes allow people outside the organization to contact the youth protection officers and the Youth Protection Team with questions or complaints.

Above and beyond this contact information, the portals’ youth protection sections provide information and tips and tricks designed to educate children, young people, and their parents, and to improve their media literacy. The material provided includes links to youth protection programs and information about counseling services and contacts for specific topics and problems associated with internet usage.

See our Guidelines on the United Internet Media website.

Freely Accessible News Sources

The Company’s GMX, WEB.DE, and 1&1 portals offer users not only e-mail and cloud services but also unrestricted access to content from their own, independent editorial team. 10% of Internet users in Germany use GMX and 12% use WEB.DE every week as sources of news. What is more, 6% (GMX) and 7% (WEB.DE) access the two freemail portals to obtain information at least three times a week. These figures are sourced from the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2022.

In order to do justice to the responsibility that this entails, we have set ourselves clear guidelines which are set out in an editorial mission statement. Among other things, we want to offer content that is relevant for users, as well as always complying with strict data privacy standards and aiming to provide rapid and above all correct reporting in rapidly developing news situations. If errors occur nevertheless, we correct them transparently in line with a clear set of rules by drawing readers’ attention to the corrections beneath the article concerned. The list of rules was made available to all users as part of an extensive self-assessment conducted under the auspices of the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI). Consulting firm Deloitte certified that the editorial department complies with the JTI standard at the beginning of 2022.

We have issued an undertaking to the German Press Council (German only) for the GMX and WEB.DE brands that we will comply with the German Press Code. Apart from the classic media brands, we were the first major pure-play online media in Germany to take this step back in 2019.

The editorial news offering is not limited to the German market, but is also to be found on the GMX brand’s localized national portals in Austria and Switzerland ( and Users of other country portals in the USA, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain are offered an automated news feed in the language of the country concerned. Strict rules apply in all cases to partner adverts in order to protect customers from misleading advertising or offerings from the tobacco industry, for example.