Vodafone and O2 have announced that they plan to make one LTE network in the UK. The companies will share masts to provide access to the latest 4G services, but will continue to compete at the customer level. The companies plan to share 18,500 masts which will both extend 2G and 3G coverage whilst also offering 4G to 98% of the population by 2015, two years ahead of the requirement data from Ofcom. Each network will operate using it's own frequencies which would be obtained from the 4G spectrum auction.
"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."Guy Laurence, (Chief Executive) Vodafone
"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."Ronan Dunne, (Chief Executive) O2
This is not the first instance of O2 and Vodafone sharing masts in the UK. Back in 2009, the two companies set up the Cornerstone project which set out to see how they could work together to share masts, and later worked to integrate networks too, in a bid to reduce the overhead costs the companies are seeing.