UK operators extend network sharing to 5G infrastructure to lower costs

Nick Jeffery of Vodafone UK

Telefonica’s O2 and Vodafone are extending their network sharing deal to cover 5G, enabling them to accelerate the deployment of the faster mobile service at a lower cost.

The move is designed to combat BT’s market lead. “We believe that these plans will generate significant benefits for our business and our customers as we move into the digital era of connected devices, appliances and systems on a mass scale,” says Vodafone UK, chief executive Nick Jeffery.

The two groups said on Wednesday they would share the fibre that runs between their individual core networks and jointly-owned masts to improve their offering.

Commenting on the news, Ingo Flomer, VP technology at Cobham Wireless says, “UK 5G roll-out is on the way and operators need to be more accepting of sharing infrastructure to ensure that coverage demands from consumers and businesses can be met as quickly as possible. Deploying new 5G networks typically requires operators to install and maintain new antennas, hardware and cables, which requires significant planning, management and expense. By using one common architecture, operators can minimise cost and disruption.

“Mobile operators have for years been sharing infrastructure in large venues, such as stadiums, airports and shopping malls, using technology such as distributed antenna systems which can provide coverage for multiple operators on a single system,” he continues. “This approach has established a blueprint for cost-effective network sharing, not only in-buildings but across wider public networks.”

Flomer adds, “Ofcom’s move last year to introduce unrestricted access to Openreach’s underground ducts and telegraph poles, in order to expedite the deployment of fibre networks, is additional motivation to make networking sharing a common approach across the industry.”

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