Vodafone and O2 have announced a plan to begin sharing their network infrastructure for 2G and 3G services and ensure the widest possible coverage base for 4G when these services come online.
While the two firms will not be sharing network spectrum, they will merge their sites to form a single national grid of 18,500 sites, to reduce costs and increase their coverage capabilities to meet the 98 per cent indoor coverage requirements from Ofcom.
The two firms will split the design, management and maintenance of the network into different geographical areas. O2 will manage the East of the UK, including Northern Ireland and Scotland, and Vodafone the West, including Wales.
Furthermore, by working together on a single network infrastructure the two firms said claim they will be able to deliver 4G services far sooner than if they worked independently.
"This partnership will close the digital divide for millions of people across the country and power the next phase of the smartphone revolution," said Vodafone's chief executive, Guy Laurence.
"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."
The partnerships comes as rivals Orange and T-Mobile, as part of Everything Everywhere, makes a play to Ofcom to be given the right to provide 4G services on its existing 1800MHz spectrum, a move that Vodafone and O2 have criticised.
Ovum analyst Jeremy Green told V3 that once Everything Everywhere was formed and began sharing its network infrastructure, O2 and Vodafone were at a competitive disadvantage so a sharing agreement was always on the cards.
"From both a technological and economic view it makes a lot of sense for the two firms to pool their resources in this way. They both have experience of sharing networks as they work in a similar way in Spain," he said.
"We had expected the UK to follow other nations that have LTE services by only having two physical networks installed and it should lead to a quicker rollout of 4G services."
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