UK mobile operators Vodafone and O2 have agreed to extend their network sharing partnership to include 5G, in a bid to deploy 5G services faster, cheaper and to more customers.
Vodafone and O2’s parent company, Telefonica, have agreed non-binding terms that will see the two firms provide 5G coverage from joint radio network sites.
At the same time the firms will deploy separate radio equipment in larger cities in the UK – at approximately 2,500 sites, representing around 15% of sites outside of London – in a move towards greater network autonomy.
Vodafone and O2 also plan to upgrade their transmission networks with higher capacity optical fibre cables and said they are exploring options around their future transmission operating model, which could drive synergies in the investment and operation of their end-to-end networks.
The companies said they will devolve additional activities to CTIL, the 50:50 owned joint venture company that owns and manages the parties’ passive tower infrastructure. This could potentially allow CTIL to add further third-party tenants to the towers.
“We believe that these plans will generate significant benefits for our business and our customers as we move into the digital era of connected devices, appliances and systems on a mass scale,” said Vodafone UK CEO, Nick Jeffery.
“Customers will benefit from the best 5G experience available and we will deliver even faster speeds by using our spectrum holding more effectively.”
Telefonica UK CEO, Mark Evans, said: “I’m excited by the potential of these plans to meet the future needs of our customers while delivering value for our business. In addition, these plans would allow us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”
The 5G partnership remains subject to Vodafone and O2 agreeing detailed terms, concluding legally binding agreements and receiving all necessary regulatory approvals. Vodafone and O2 said they aim to conclude this during 2019.
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