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FRANKFURT: Vodafone said on Tuesday it was launching 5G services in Germany, taking on Deutsche Telekom by offering cheaper deals and reaching more cities than the market leader that went live last week.

Vodafone, which has already launched limited 5G services in its British home market, is switching on 5G antennae in 20 German towns and cities - a figure that Deutsche Telekom only expects to reach next year.

It will offer new 5G deals for smartphone users starting at 14.99 euros ($16.80) per month for the first year. Its unlimited 5G data plan costs 80 euros, less than Deutsche Telekom's own deal at 85 euros.

"We are democratising 5G," Vodafone's Germany chief Hannes Ametsreiter said in a statement. "With us, 5G isn't just a technology only for high earners."

Networks running on 5G offer much faster download speeds than existing 4G services, while latency - or reaction time - is reduced to milliseconds. That can power multi-player video games or devices and sensors connected to the industrial internet.

Vodafone said its 5G services would actually be available to consumers faster than Deutsche Telekom's, with existing customers able to switch plans from Wednesday at a monthly cost of 5 euros or, for some high-end tariffs, for free.

It is also marketing 5G-enabled smartphones, offering the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G from Wednesday and Samsung's Galaxy S10 5G to follow, as well as the Gigacube 5G home router from Huawei.

Vodafone, like other German network operators, continues to rely on network gear from Huawei, the Chinese technology giant that has been sanctioned by the United States because of perceived security risks.

The company will continue to pursue a dual vendor strategy for its networks, using Huawei and Sweden's Ericsson, a spokesman said.

Vodafone's 5G network will cover 25 cities, 25 municipalities and 10 industrial parks by the end of this year. It will reach 10 million users by the end of 2020, and 20 million by the end of 2021, the company said.

Copyright Reuters, 2019