Australian mobile operators SingTel Optus and Vodafone have signed a binding agreement to share 3G network sites and radio infrastructure across the country. The cellcos, which are the first in Australia to finalise such a deal, announced plans to share a 3G mobile network in August in a bid to cut the costs associated with launching the new technology. The network is set to be rolled out commercially in the third quarter of 2005, with Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra being the first cities covered, followed closely by Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Optus and Vodafone will share over 2,000 base stations and estimate that the network will cost around AUD1 billion (USD781 million) to build. The two will each own a 50% share in the assets.
Optus and Vodafone were awarded their 3G licences in March 2001, alongside Telstra, Hutchison 3G Australia, CKW Wireless and 3G Investments. Optus paid USD128.9 million while Vodafone paid USD131.4 million. At the end of September 2004 there were 17.26 million mobile subscribers in Australia. Telstra was the largest operator with a share of 46%, while Optus and Vodafone claimed 34% and 15% respectively. Hutchison 3G Australia is currently the only commercial 3G operator, with around 390,000 subscribers at the same date.