Czech cellcos O2 and T-Mobile ink nationwide 4G networking sharing deal

6 May 2014

Czech mobile network operators (MNOs) Telefonica O2 CR and T-Mobile CR have signed an agreement to share 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks across the country by the end of this year – excepting the cities of Prague and Brno – the pair said in a joint statement published this week. Under the plan, the pair will start tests on the sharing of Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, but will retain control over their own network infrastructure and maintain separate business strategies. It is hoped that upon conclusion of trials in the coming months, a commercial launch will follow in the second half of 2014, with Telefonica O2 CR and T-Mobile CR sharing transmitters in order to speed up the use of their LTE networks in the country earlier than the date set by the government’s auction. Telefonica O2 CR will be responsible for looking after the eastern part of the country, while T-Mobile will look after operations in the west of the Republic. The pair say initial data speeds will reach a peak of 75Mbps. Network sharing is a growing European trend, having already been used successfully in Great Britain, Sweden and France. The news was, however, not so welcome to the country’s third MNO Vodafone CR, which has reportedly criticised the fact that it is left out on its own and will have to build a standalone 4G network.

The three Czech MNOs were granted 800MHz, 1900MHz and 2600MHz LTE frequencies at the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU) 4G auction, paying up a total of CZK8.5 billion (USD430 million). Telefonica O2 CR’s 4G network is currently operational in central parts of Prague and Brno, with plans to extend to full coverage of both cities by the end of the year. Meanwhile, T-Mobile CR’s LTE network is currently live in part of Prague (Plzen district) and Mlada Boleslav, with plans to reach all districts in the capital by October 2014. Finally, Vodafone has launched its own LTE network rollout using 900MHz frequencies, and in April this year CommsUpdate reported that its combined 3.5G HSPA+ and 4G network reached 80% of the population across 52% of the country’s territory at that date. The 900MHz LTE network has been expanded along major road routes, as well as to new areas in the regions of Karlovy Vary, Liberec, Usti nad Labem, Pilsen, Pardubice, Central Bohemia, South Bohemia and Vysocina. The combined 3G/LTE-900 network, which is marketed under the ‘Turbo Internet’ banner, encompasses 3,091 towns and villages, with the LTE system active in 1,518 of these (or roughly 25% coverage of the Czech Republic). The firm says the network is provides average real-time download speeds of 16.5Mbps.