Telefónica UK and Vodafone UK are planning to pool the basic parts of their network infrastructure, creating a single ‘national grid’ that runs independent spectrum for Vodafone and O2. The companies - which already have a network partnership known as Cornerstone - say it’ll improve 2G and 3G coverage as well as providing faster roll-out for 4G mobile services. They anticipate delivering a nationwide 4G service up to two years before Ofcom’s anticipated regulatory requirement of 98% population coverage by 2017.
Both companies would jointly operate and manage a single network grid with two competing nationwide mobile internet and voice networks. Telefonica and Vodafone would retain complete control over their own wireless spectrum, intelligent core networks and customer data.
A new 50/50 joint venture company will take control of basic network infrastructure, including towers and masts. Each network operator will see an increase in sites of more than 40%. In addition, a number of duplicate sites will be decommissioned. Telefónica UK will design, manage and maintain radio equipment in the east (including Northern Ireland and most of Scotland) with Vodafone UK having responsibility in the west (including Wales).
Each operator will remain responsible for its own existing spectrum holdings and for bidding in Ofcom’s forthcoming 4G auction.
Ronan Dunne, CEO for Telefónica UK, said “Exceptional customer demand for the mobile internet has challenged the mobile industry to consider innovative solutions to building a nationwide network that will be fit for our customers in the future and support the products and services that will truly make Britain digital. This partnership is about working smarter as an industry, so that we can focus on what really matters to our customers – delivering a superfast network up to two years faster than Ofcom envisages and to as many people as possible. One physical grid, running independent networks, will mean greater efficiency, fewer site builds, broader coverage and, crucially, investment in innovation and better competition for the customer.”
Guy Laurence, Vodafone UK’s CEO, said “This partnership will close the digital divide for millions of people across the country and power the next phase of the smartphone revolution. It will create two stronger players who will compete with each other and with other operators to bring the benefits of mobile internet services to consumers and businesses across the country. We have learned a lot from our existing network collaboration but now it is time for it to evolve. This partnership will improve the service that customers receive today and give Britain the 4G networks that it will need tomorrow.”
The two networks are currently talking to Ofcom about their plans; they hope to establish the joint venture later this year.