Regardless of the agreed merger between Orange and T-Mobile UK, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) has been awarded a €600 million contract to expand and upgrade the 3G network shared by 3UK and T-Mobile UK.
NSN said that the deal would enable the two operators to boost 3G coverage to over 98 per cent of Britain's population, up from currently 90 per cent, by the end of this year.
The deal, which was struck between NSN and the 3UK/T-Mobile joint venture Mobile Broadband Network (MBNL), will see NSN implement its Multi-operator Radio Access Network (MORAN) platform that has been designed to provide better flexibility in the network merging process, while also enabling the re-use of existing infrastructure.
The drive behind this expansion, which is set to build the largest shared network in Europe, is due to "unprecedented data traffic growth in the UK," said Graham Payne, MD of MBNL, "and every sign is it will continue growing fast. With NSN, we are confident of providing the UK's most smartphone friendly, high-speed 3G network to more people in the UK than any other operator."
Since forming MBNL in 2007, T-Mobile UK and 3 UK said they had already consolidated over 7,000 sites out of 12,500 included in the process, and this next phase would plan to see more than 3,000 sites made redundant.
Separately, Orange UK has called time on its declining fixed-line broadband service and confirmed it would hand over its existing infrastructure to BT Wholesale. The company said that it would continue to operate as a bundled broadband provider in the same mould as Vodafone, Tesco and the dozen or so other ISPs that resell BT's connectivity.
For more on this story:
Rumour mill: Orange/T-Mobile UK to build new network
LTE is the trigger for greater network sharing
French operators agree to 3G network sharing (pushed by regulator)
Vodafone/O2 network sharing goes live