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Telefónica UK and Vodafone merge to offer 4G

Telefónica UK and Vodafone merge to offer 4G in a bid to bring mobile coverage and eventually 4G services to more customers. The operators have announced they are pooling their basic network infrastructure to create one national grid of 18.500 sites in a joint venture company, to be titled "Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTI)".

Expanding on the two operators' 2009 Cornerstone joint venture, which saw them working together to share infrastructure on new sites only, the announcement grows that idea to the sharing of land, masts and power across all Vodafone and Telefónica UK sites, and include some radio equipment and local transmission sharing.

The aim of CTI is to close the digital divide between rural and urban areas targeting 98% indoor population coverage across 2G and 3G by 2015, delivering mobile coverage and mobile internet services to vast majority of UK households, using one gris that both competing networks run.

Customers of each operator will remain exclusively in that operator's control, and customers will not be able to roam onto the opposites carrier's network, unlike the network sharing joint venture of rival operator, Everything Everywhere. The operators will control their own wireless spectrum, intelligent core networks and customer data.

The deal will also ensure that the capability for the next generation of 4G mobile services is rolled out as widely rapidly as possible. The partnership will lay the foundations for two competing 4G networks to deliver a nationwide 4G service faster that could be achieved independently and up to two years before the anticipated regulatory requirement of 98% population coverage by 2017.

While CTI will manage the joint infrastructure, each operator will take responsibility for the management of an addition to the backhaul agreement, where some radio equipment and local transmission will also be shared. The operators will take responsibility for half of the design, management and maintenance of radio equipment as well as local transmission, with Vodafone controlling the West of the UK and Telefónica UK the East.

A spokesperson for Vodafone stated: "We will be working with one grid in the joint venture, but with each mast broadcasting separate spectrum so each operator maintains complete control over their network and customers. We will continue to compete fiercely. We are doing this because we want to bring 2G, 3G and then 4G to more people; its more cost effective to run our networks like this, and we are going to be able to bring coverage to areas where there is one.

Source: comms business. "Telefónica UK and Vodafone merge backhaul". July 2012.

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