Vodafone has penned an agreement with O2 Telefonica that will see the pair share 5G active equipment in the UK. The aim is to use the partnership to deliver 5G to more people sooner, reduce the impact on the environment, and lower rollout costs for the companies.
The mobile network operators have also agreed to greater 5G network autonomy on around 2,700 sites in 23 UK cities, representing over 16 per cent of combined mast sites. This autonomy is already present in London, so the total has been brought up to 25 per cent overall. At the sites, both companies will install their own radio equipment, fibre ‘backhaul’ connection, and power supply, while sharing physical elements such as the mast.
“We’re driving our 5G roll-out forward with this agreement, and taking our customers, our business and the whole of the UK with us,” said Nick Jeffrey, Vodafone UK CEO. “Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment, and together with active network sharing, ensures that our customers will get super-fast 5G in even more places more quickly, using fewer masts. We can boost capacity where our customers need it most so they can take full advantage of our new unlimited plans. And it demonstrates our commitment to further invest in our multi-billion-pound network in the years to come, helping the UK become a digital pioneer.”
Vodafone and O2 already have an existing joint venture company which owns and manages the phone masts of the pair. Cornerstone, which was formed in 2012, will now take an additional role in the deployment of both networks and look to capture further operational efficiencies. With this, Vodafone and O2 will begin exploring monetisation options for their joint mobile infrastructure services company.
“Today is an important step in demonstrating our commitment to invest for the future, with mobile connectivity one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of British people,” said Mark Evans, Telefonica UK CEO. “This agreement will enable us to roll-out 5G faster and more efficiently, benefiting customers while delivering value for our business. It also importantly allows us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”
Vodafone became the second UK mobile operator, after EE, to switch on its 5G network earlier this month. The technology initially launched in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and London, before being introduced in Birkenhead, Bolton, Gatwick, Lancaster, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent, and Wolverhampton.
O2’s 5G network is expected to begin rolling out later this year.