Telefonica UK and Vodafone merge backhaul


Pair team to bring mobile coverage and eventually 4G services to more customers

By Heather McLean

Telefonica UK and Vodafone have teamed up in a bid to bring mobile coverage and eventually 4G services to more customers. The operators have announced they are pooling their basic network infrastructure to create one national grid of 18,500 sites in a joint venture company, to be titled Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTI).

Expanding on the two operators' 2009 Cornerstone joint venture, which saw them working together to share infrastructure on new sites only, today's announcement grows that idea to the sharing of land, masts and power across all Vodafone and Telefonica UK sites, and includes some radio equipment and local transmission sharing.

The aim of CTI is to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas by targeting 98% indoor population coverage across 2G and 3G by 2015, delivering mobile coverage and mobile internet services to the vast majority of UK households, using one grid that both competing networks run.

Customers of each operator will remain exclusively in that operator's control, and customers will not be able to roam onto the opposing carrier's network, unlike the network sharing joint venture of rival operator, Everything Everywhere. The operators will control their own wireless spectrum, intelligent core networks and customer data.

The deal will also ensure that the capability for the next generation of 4G mobile services is rolled out as widely and rapidly as possible. The partnership will lay the foundations for two competing 4G networks to deliver a nationwide 4G service faster than could be achieved independently and up to two years before the anticipated regulatory requirement of 98% population coverage by 2017.

While CTI will manage the joint infrastructure, each operator will take responsibility for the management of an addition to the backhaul agreement, where some radio equipment and local transmission will also be shared. The operators will take responsibility for half of the design, management and maintenance of radio equipment as well as local transmission, with Vodafone controlling the West of the UK and Telefonica UK the East.

A spokesperson for Vodafone stated: 'We will be working with one grid in the joint venture, but with each mast broadcasting separate spectrum so each operator maintains complete control over their network and customers. We will continue to compete fiercely. We are doing this because we want to bring 2G, 3G and then 4G to more people; it's more cost effective to run our networks like this, and we are going to be able to bring coverage to areas where there is none.'

Smart Chimps says: This is a great idea for the two operators, giving them the leg up they need to help them in the ratings war against Everything Everywhere. It will be interesting to see how the coverage improves, and whether this has any effect on the competitiveness of the two companies. Might we see another Everything Everywhere one day? 'Anything Anywhere', perhaps? 


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