U.K. telecommunications operators Vodafone and O2 Telefónica UK (O2) announced that they have agreed to share 5G active equipment, such as radio antennas, on joint network sites across the country.
The two carriers said that this network sharing agreement will allow them to speed up the deployment of 5G technology and lower roll-out costs.
Vodafone and O2 have also agreed to greater 5G network autonomy on approximately 2,700 sites in 23 of the UK’s larger cities, representing just over 16% of combined mast sites. This is in addition to London – previously announced in 2018 – bringing the total number of autonomous sites to 25%. At these sites, each party will install their own radio equipment, fiber ‘backhaul’ connection and power supply.
The partners said that this new agreement will see Cornerstone, the 50:50 joint venture company that owns and manages the carriers’ passive tower infrastructure, take an additional role in the deployment of both networks and look to capture further operational efficiencies. In addition, Vodafone and O2 will explore potential monetization options for Cornerstone.
Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK, said: “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. 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.”
Mark Evans, CEO, Telefónica UK, said: “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 utilize the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”
Las week, Vodafone announced the launch of 5G technology in Birkenhead, Bolton, Gatwick, Lancaster, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.
These new cities join Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and London, which all went live with 5G at the beginning of July.
Vodafone is the second operator to launch 5G in the UK. EE switched on 5G in the U.K. in May. Three is slated to launch in August; O2 expects 5G in the autumn.
Last year, U.K. telcos obtained spectrum for the future provision of 5G services. Vodafone won 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz band after paying £378 million ($498 million). BT-owned EE won 40 megahertz for which it paid £303 million. Three secured 20 megahertz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151.3 million, while Telefónica-owned O2 picked up 40 megahertz for £318m.
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