Vodafone, O2 Agree 5G Network Site Sharing Deal

Two of the leading mobile operators in the United Kingdom have agreed to work together to increase the rollout of 5G networks around the country.

Vodafone and O2 have finalise a 5G network agreement that will see the two operators share sites and 5G active equipment, such as radio antennas.

EE was the first to launch its network at the end of May, followed by Vodafone in early July, and it already expanding its coverage. Three UK is readying its 5G network for an August launch. O2 is only planning to launch its 5G network later this year.

Network sharing

It should be remembered that all four mobile operators are using 5G equipment from Huawei in their networks, despite worries that its equipment may be subsequently banned on national security grounds.

The UK government said this week that it has delayed its decision on this matter.

Into this atmosphere, two of the big four operators (Vodafone and O2) have announced they have agreed to share 5G active equipment, such as radio antennas, on joint network sites across the UK.

The operators said this means more people will get 5G sooner, and that network sharing reaps the benefits of 5G and at the same time reduces the impact on the environment and lowers roll-out costs allowing more investment in services for customers.

It seems that both Vodafone and O2 have also agreed to greater 5G network autonomy on approximately 2,700 sites in 23 of the UK’s larger cities. This represents just over 16 percent of combined mast sites.

This is in addition to London – previously announced in 2018 – bringing the total number of autonomous sites to 25 percent.

“It gives both parties more flexibility to meet the needs of their customers and deploy future network technologies,” said the two operators. “At these sites, each party will install their own radio equipment, fibre ‘backhaul’ connection and power supply, whilst continuing to limit the environmental impact by sharing the physical elements such as the mast.”

To make this a reality, the two have created a 50:50 joint venture company called Cornerstone, which will own and manages the parties’ passive tower infrastructure.

Coverage boost

“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 Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK.

“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,” said Jeffery.

“We can boost capacity where our customers need it most so they can take full advantage of our new unlimited plans,” he added. “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.”

O2 also said the agreement was a positive development for 5G services in the UK.

“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, CEO of Telefónica UK (the owner of O2).

“This agreement will enable us to roll-out 5G faster and more efficiently, benefiting customers while delivering value for our business,” said Evans. “It also importantly allows us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”

Last week the head of Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, warned that arrival of 5G networks would result in the police being unable to track or carry out surveillance of suspects’ mobile devices.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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