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Vodafone and O2 agree to share 5G infrastructure

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Vodafone and O2 have said they will share active 5G equipment, such as radio antennas, in a bid to improve coverage faster as the infrastructure-heavy network is rolled out across the country.

While 5G boasts dramatically improved speeds, capacity and latency over 4G, the nature of the technology means that the amount of coverage provided by each small cell is lower than earlier generations of mobile network.

This means that a greater amount of physical infrastructure will need to be built, an expensive and involved process that could hamper the new networks’ coverage in the early stages.

Vodafone and O2's infrastructure partnership should help to improve 5G rollout for both companies, in addition to lowering the environmental impact of the work required.

The mobile networks 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 per cent of combined mast sites. This is in addition to London – previously announced in 2018 – bringing the total number of autonomous sites to 25 per cent.

At these sites, each party will install their 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.

Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK, said: “Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment and together with active network sharing ensures that our customers will get super-fast 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. It demonstrates our commitment to further invest in our multi-billion pound network in the years to come, helping the UK become a digital pioneer.”

O2 CEO Mark Evans said the partnership will allow them to “utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”

This isn’t the first time Vodafone and O2 have worked together: in 2012, they collaborated on Project Beacon to accelerate the rollout of 4G.

Rob Baillie, mobile comms expert at comparemymobile.com, said: “With the two companies joining forces once again and sharing their equipment, there should hopefully be a much quicker and efficient rollout of 5G.

“However, Project Beacon was due to be completed in 2015, but wasn’t finished until 2017. Time will tell if the latest partnership will play out in the same way.

“When companies collaborate, it puts the customer first and means that the smaller cities and rural areas benefit from newer improved services sooner. Hopefully with Vodafone and O2 working together, other mobile providers will step up their game and 4G will soon be a thing of the past.”

Vodafone switched on its 5G network at an event in London earlier this month, offering a range of speed-based unlimited mobile data deals.

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