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Vodafone and O2 to merge mobile network infrastructure

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Vodafone Smart II budget Android phone

© Vodafone

Vodafone and O2-owner Telefonica have announced plans to "pool" their mobile network infrastructure in the UK to create a single national grid.

The move is designed to cut costs, improve the existing coverage of both firms and speed up the rollout of mobile broadband and new 4G services.

However, Vodafone and O2 will still operate totally independent mobile spectrum and offer competing mobile services to customers.

Under the plans, Vodafone UK and Telefonica UK (O2) will merge their basic mobile network infrastructure to make one national grid of 18,500 sites.

The plan will deliver various benefits for mobile phone users, bringing indoor 2G and 3G calls and mobile data coverage to 98% of the UK population by 2015.

It will also ensure that next generation 4G mobile services - offering mobile broadband of up to 100Mbps - can be rolled out as soon as possible in Britain following Ofcom's planned auction of 4G spectrum later in the year.

The partnership will lay the foundation for two competing 4G networks by 2015, said the two firms, covering 98% of UK homes two years earlier than required by Ofcom.

"Exceptional customer demand for the mobile internet has challenged the mobile industry to consider innovative solutions to building a nationwide network that will be fit for our customers in the future and support the products and services that will truly make Britain digital," said Telefonica UK chief executive Ronan Dunne.

"This partnership is about working smarter as an industry, so that we can focus on what really matters to our customers - delivering a superfast network up to two years faster than Ofcom envisages and to as many people as possible.

"One physical grid, running independent networks, will mean greater efficiency, fewer site builds, broader coverage and, crucially, investment in innovation and better competition for the customer."

Vodafone UK chief executive Guy Laurence added: "This partnership will close the digital divide for millions of people across the country and power the next phase of the smartphone revolution.

"It will create two stronger players who will compete with each other and with other operators to bring the benefits of mobile internet services to consumers and businesses across the country.

"We have learned a lot from our existing network collaboration but now it is time for it to evolve. This partnership will improve the service that customers receive today and give Britain the 4G networks that it will need tomorrow."

The merger, which follows an existing network sharing partnership between Vodafone and O2, will help both operators cut costs in continued tough economic times across Europe.

Vodafone and Telefonica UK will now jointly operate and manage a single network grid in the UK, on which they will both offer competing mobile services for voice and data.

Both companies will retain complete control over their wireless spectrum, intelligent core networks and customers data.

The deal follows the merger of rival firms T-Mobile and Orange in the UK to become Everything Everywhere, the largest mobile operator in Britain by customer base.

> Everything Everywhere hits out at 4G early opponents

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