O2 and Vodafone have struck up a new partnership today that will see them sharing a network of 18,500 mobile sites in an effort to expand coverage across the UK. This won't lead to any sharing of spectrum, it's just the basic infrastructure that will be common across the two, but it should lead to increased efficiency and we're promised it will provide a boost to the country's eventual launch of 4G services.
"One grid, two networks."
The agreement between O2 and Vodafone is presently being discussed with local regulator Ofcom, following which talks a new joint venture company will be created from the existing network infrastructure of the two operators, with each taking ownership of half. Over time, Telefonica UK (O2's parent company) will take responsibility for management and maintenance of the mobile site grid in the eastern parts of the UK along with Scotland and Nortern Ireland, while Vodafone will perform the same role in the west of England together with Wales. O2 suggests that up to 10 percent of existing mobile sites could be decommissioned if this collaboration is approved, while both companies are keen to make it clear that partnering on the basic building blocks of their networks will not stand in the way of robust competition between them. In their words, there will be "one grid, two networks."