British mobile network operators (MNOs) O2 UK and Vodafone UK have announced that they have agreed to share 5G active equipment, such as radio antennas, on joint network sites across the country. In a press release, O2 UK claimed the development means ‘more people will get 5G sooner’, while it will also reduce environmental impact and lower rollout costs.
The MNOs have also agreed to greater 5G network autonomy on approximately 2,700 sites in 23 of the UK’s larger cities, representing just over 16% of combined mast sites. O2 UK notes that this is in addition to London – where similar autonomy was previously confirmed in 2018 – bringing the total number of autonomous sites countrywide to 25%. At these sites, each cellco will install its own radio equipment, fibre backhaul connection and power supply, whilst continuing to limit the environmental impact by sharing the physical elements such as the mast.
Cornerstone, the 50/50 joint venture company that owns and manages O2 UK and Vodafone UK’s passive tower infrastructure, will reportedly undertake an additional role in the deployment of both networks as part of this latest agreement, and look to capture further operational efficiencies. In addition, O2 UK and Vodafone UK will now proceed to explore potential monetisation options for Cornerstone.
Commenting, Mark Evans, O2 UK CEO, said: ‘This agreement will enable us to roll out 5G faster and more efficiently, benefiting customers while delivering value for our business.mIt also importantly allows us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.’ Meanwhile, Vodafone UK’s chief executive Nick Jeffery, said: ‘We’re driving our 5G rollout forward with this agreement, and taking our customers, our business and the whole of the UK with us. Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment, and together with active network sharing, ensures that our customers will get superfast 5G in even more places more quickly, using fewer masts. We can boost capacity where our customers need it most so they can take full advantage of our new unlimited plans.’