Australian mobile network operators Optus Mobile and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) have revealed that they are to expand upon an existing network sharing agreement, with the duo understood to have set up a new joint venture that will also construct new shared mobile sites. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the revised deal will see VHA customers gain the ability to roam on the Optus network, with the move coming as the former continues to try to repair a somewhat tarnished image after a number of high-profile network issues in late 2010/early 2011. The report cites VHA’s new chief executive Bill Morrow as noting that the agreement with Optus still requires approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), but it adds that, if approved, the deal will give VHA subscribers access to 400 Optus base stations. With the JV expected to roll out around 500 new shared base stations over the course of the next four years, the agreement is expected to see Optus expand its 3G and 4G footprint via additional sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Geelong, Central Coast, Gold Coast and Canberra.
Further, it has been confirmed that around 900 base stations previously belonging to 3GIS, a 50/50 venture formed by Telstra and Hutchison 3G Australia (H3G) prior to the latter’s merger with Vodafone, will be incorporated into the VHA network from this year. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in October 2010 it was confirmed that Telstra and the now-combined H3G had agreed to shut down the 3G mobile spectrum joint venture, with a nominal end date for the partnership set as 31 August 2012. Further clarification on the likely process for the end of the JV was forthcoming in September 2011, at which date Telstra confirmed that the shared 2100MHz metro networks would be decommissioned in 2012, with the assets to be shared between them.
Commenting on the development, Mr Morrow said: ‘Under the proposed extended network joint venture, which includes provision for a roaming agreement with Optus to commence in April 2013, Vodafone customers will gain access to hundreds of additional base stations in outer metropolitan and regional areas, increasing Vodafone’s network coverage to reach 96% of the Australian population.’