T-Mobile & 3 to share 3G network to boost wireless broadband coverage

18 Dec 2007

T-Mobile UK has confirmed it has agreed a 3G network sharing deal with rival operator 3 UK, with the aim of extending high speed wireless broadband coverage to the entire country by the end of 2009. Combining the high speed networks of the UK’s fourth and fifth-placed operators will help reduce the cost of producing a comprehensive broadband network by around GBP2 billion; both already have extensive W-CDMA networks, with 3’s infrastructure reaching around 90% of the population. The deal, which will involve the formation of a 50/50 joint venture, is understood to cover the two companies’ 3G access networks (but not T-Mobile’s 2G network), consisting of thousands of masts. In the search for cost savings, both have already independently outsourced part of the management of their backbone networks to Ericsson. As well as reducing costs, the deal will fuel speculation that T-Mobile ultimately wants to buy 3 if owner Hutchison Whampoa lowers its price expectations. Deutsche Telekom boss René Obermann has made no secret of his desire for consolidation in the British market. T-Mobile made an approach for O2 in 2006 but was thwarted by a knock-out offer from Telefonica. O2 is now the only UK mobile phone company not involved in plans to share network assets.

United Kingdom, Hutchison 3G UK (Three UK), T-Mobile UK