A joint venture between T-Mobile UK and 3UK, signed in 2007 with the agreement to share more than 12,000 3G sites, has finally been completed. The two firms formed the 50/50 JV with the aim of consolidating their 3G networks to improve coverage and data speeds, together with reducing both Opex and future Capex.
The JV, labelled Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL), was joined by Orange UK in September following its merger with T-Mobile UK. However, questions have been raised about how Orange's 3G network would be integrated into MBNL, and whether 3UK feels comfortable about now being the much smaller partner in this enlarged JV.
Regardless of any concerns, 3UK's CEO, Kevin Russell, said: "There were a lot of people back in 2007 who said a network share of this scale could not happen. We've proved an awful lot of people wrong. The MBNL network is going to get bigger and it's going to get better."
Commenting for Everything Everywhere, Emin Gurdenli, VP of network services said: "The success of MBNL in delivering 12,000 3G sites is great news for T-Mobile customers. The integration of a large number of former Orange cell sites into the network will also provide enhanced capacity and coverage to all of our customers."
The companies involved with merging the 3UK and T-mobile UK networks included Ericsson with the responsibility for the network design and deployment, NSN supplying the equipment and BT Wholesale providing the Ethernet backhaul to support delivery of mobile voice and data traffic to cell sites. Regardless of any potential conflict between these firms, they managed to agree to switch off more than 5,000 existing 3G sites, with 2,000 sites already being fully decommissioned.
A recent study published by Arthur D. Little has stated that the operators must act now to agree to network sharing deals, claiming that those who move quickly will narrow the options for other competitors in the market.
The consultancy firm believes that the challenge facing operators now is to split the cost of mobile data between service providers who cooperate at increasingly deeper levels in their infrastructure in order to gain significant competitive advantage in their market.
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