Two years ago I used a mobile phone that could show me the GSM frequency channels to find out whether all GSM network operators in Germany make use of the GSM 900 MHz band. While the original two GSM network operators obviously made good use of their beachfront property, the other two network operators that came later and at first only had 1800 MHz spectrum made little to no use of the 900 MHz spectrum. With my SDR-Sharp + DVB-T Stick Layer 1 utility I now revisited the topic to have a look at the complete band owned by the original 1800 MHz carriers in the 900 MHz band to see if I had overlooked something or if something had changed in the meantime.
The result is pretty much the same as two years ago. One of the two operators makes a bit of use, I could observe at least one or two carriers in their 5 MHz part of the spectrum in Cologne (i.e. in the city). This is very little compared to the two original GSM network operators that have many many cells on air in the same amount of spectrum.
The second original 1800 MHz operator still doesn't seem to make any use of GSM 900 in Cologne. I could only see very faint 200 kHz signals and I am not quite sure what they are. Perhaps echos of other carriers nearby shown here by my tracing hardware which has its limitations? Or perhaps cells used outside of Cologne that are still visible here?
In any case, both make so little use of it that I wonder if one day one of them might just start with either a UMTS 900 or an LTE 900 carrier in this part of the spectrum.