The two UK carriers said they also aim to upgrade their transmission networks with higher capacity optical fiber cables


UK carriers Vodafone and Telefonica UK (O2) have signed a letter of intent aimed at strengthening their existing network sharing partnership.

Vodafone and O2 said they plan to extend their existing network sharing partnership term and include 5G at joint radio network sites. This would enable both Vodafone and O2 to deploy 5G faster, to offer 5G services to more customers over a wider geographic area.

The deal would also allow the two carriers to lower the costs of 5G deployments.

In addition, both parties aims to extend greater network autonomy in a number of larger cities by deploying their own separate radio equipment on approximately 2,500 sites, which represents around 15% of sites outside London.

Both Vodafone and O2 also intend to upgrade their transmission networks with higher capacity optical fiber cables, which they said would allow customers to benefit from 5G’s new features, such as low latency, as well as provide both companies with greater economies of scale and an improved choice of infrastructure partners.

In addition, the two carriers said they are “exploring options around their future transmission operating model which could drive synergies in the investment and operation of their end-to-end networks.”

The initiatives remain subject to the parties agreeing on detailed terms, concluding legally binding agreements and receiving all necessary regulatory approvals, the carriers noted; they aim to conclude these steps during 2019.

“We believe that these plans will generate significant benefits for our business and our customers as we move into the digital era of connected devices, appliances and systems on a mass scale. Customers will benefit from the best 5G experience available and we will deliver even faster speeds by using our spectrum holding more effectively,“ said Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK.

“I’m excited by the potential of these plans to meet the future needs of our customers while delivering value for our business. In addition, these plans would allow us to utilize the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively,” said Mark Evans, CEO, Telefónica UK.

U.K. telcos are expected to launch 5G services during the last quarter of 2019.

Last year, U.K. telcos obtained spectrum for the future provision of 5G services. BT-owned EE won 40 megahertz for which it paid £303 million ($394 million). Three secured 20 megahertz of 3.4 GHz spectrum at a cost of £151.3 million. Vodafone won 50 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.4GHz frequency band after paying £378 million, while Telefónica-owned O2 picked up 40 megahertz for £318m.

Ofcom also said that it expects to auction additional spectrum for the provision of 5G services during the second half of 2019. Ofcom plans to make available two blocks of spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands.

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