The U.K. wireless market continues its evolution as today rivals Telefonica UK, which operates under the O2 brand, and Vodafone UK announced plans to cooperate on “basic” network infrastructure that will see them share assets across 18,500 cell sites. The carriers said the move will allow them to expand indoor 2G and 3G coverage to 98% of the country’s population by 2015, and set the stage for LTE deployments.
The coverage plan aligns with government regulator Ofcom’s proposal to award 800 MHz spectrum assets to an operator with plans to provide at least 2 megabits per second of mobile data speeds covering 98% of the country by 2017.
The plan calls for both operators to jointly operate and manage a single “network grid” that will host both carriers’ mobile data and voice networks. Both companies will retain control over their respective wireless spectrum, core networks and customer data, and said they will continue to “actively compete with each other in all products and services,” an obvious nod in keeping government regulators at bay.
Shared assets will include a single grid of 18,500 towers and masts, which will be a 40% increase in total sites for each operator. The venture will also be responsible for building new sites as needed as well as the potential decommissioning of some sites, with the partnership expecting a 10% overall reduction in the total number of sites used by both operators.
The carriers will split responsibility for design, management and maintenance of radio equipment and backhaul, with Telefonica UK taking control over towers in the eastern portions of the country, including Northern Ireland and most of Scotland; with Vodafone UK in control of assets in the west, including Wales.
The partnership follows a move in 2010 by Deutsche Telekom and Orange to merge their U.K. assets into the Everything Everywhere venture. Everything Everywhere is currently the dominate mobile operator across the country with more than 27 million subscribers, though a combination of Telefonica UK and Vodafone UK would serve more than 41 million customers.
Bored? Why not follow me on Twitter?