British mobile network operators (MNOs) O2 UK and Vodafone UK have entered into a ‘non-binding heads of terms [agreement] intended to strengthen their existing network sharing partnership’, the former has announced in a press release. Under the letters of intent O2 and Vodafone will extend their existing network sharing partnership term to include 5G at joint radio network sites, which they claim will enable them to deploy the technology to more customers over a wider geographic area, faster and at a lower cost.
Concurrently, the two MNOs say they are also looking to extend greater network autonomy in several larger cities by deploying their own separate radio equipment on approximately 2,500 sites, which represent around 15% of sites outside London. In addition, the pair will upgrade their transmission networks with higher capacity optical fibre cables with a view to enabling customers to benefit from 5G’s new features, while options are being explored with regards to the pair’s future transmission operating model which ‘could drive synergies in the investment and operation of their end-to-end networks’.
Finally, O2 and Vodafone intend to devolve additional activities to Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited (CTIL), the 50:50 joint venture company that owns and manages the duo’s passive tower infrastructure. In doing so, it has been claimed that CTIL will be able to take an enhanced role in the operation of the passive infrastructure, so as to improve the efficiency of its operations and pursue opportunities to add further third-party tenants to the towers.
With the initiatives set out in the non-binding letters of intent still subject to the parties finalising, concluding legally binding agreements and receiving all necessary regulatory approvals, O2 and Vodafone are aiming to conclude these steps ‘during 2019’.