TelefÃ³nica and Vodafone, two of the world's largest operators, yesterday confirmed a program to share mobile network assets across European operations in Germany, the UK, Spain and Ireland.
Network sharing in the Czech Republic is still subject to discussion. In Germany the companies will share 2G and 3G sites. Shared masts also be used for microwave backhaul in some instances.
In Ireland the companies will open all network sites for sharing by the other party. New build will also be conducted jointly where roll-out plans are aligned.
The companies will extend the existing site share agreement in Spain, which dates from 2007 and includes the shared usage of power, cabinets and mast. So far, 2,200 sites are shared under this agreement, which will be expanded in 2009 and 2010.
In the UK the operators will focus on the joint build of new sites and consolidation of existing 2G and 3G sites.
The partners said in a statement that as "part of the collaboration, TelefÃ³nica and Vodafone are exploring opportunities to cooperate in related areas such as the provision of transmission services," moving the scope of the agreement beyond sharing the radio network, the subject of speculation previously.
The two say they will use the agreements to aid the rollout of their respective networks, improving service quality for customers in the longer term, and reducing the environmental impact of networks through the consolidation of existing sites and joint build of new sites.
The program is expected save both companies "hundreds of millions of Euros"&brkbar;over the next ten years".
Matthew Key, CEO of TelefÃ³nica Europe, commented in the statement, "This industry-leading collaboration means that TelefÃ³nica and Vodafone will continue to compete strongly against each other in local markets, while giving our customers enhanced mobile coverage in more places, using fewer mast sites. This will also create significant benefits for TelefÃ³nica shareholders."
The joint building of new sites and consolidation of existing 2G and 3G mast sites, with one site housing the equipment of both companies where previously two would have been used, is expected to cut the number of masts in operation and minimize the environmental impact.
The collaboration will also enable both companies to enhance service quality within the network footprint at a faster rate than before, and help to deliver services such as mobile broadband to a wider population.