Is O2/Vodafone network sharing deal in trouble?

The head of the O2 and Vodafone network sharing company, Cornerstone, has resigned amid rumours of discontent within the joint venture. No replacement has been named for Rob Crutchley, who will depart in September after leading the company for only 12 months.

While the two operators are adamant that Cornerstone was currently exceeding its original targets and the rollout of hundreds of more shared sites was progressing well, insiders claim otherwise.

Vodafone is said to be struggling to meet its targets of building 250 shared sites per month for O2 to achieve its objectives by the end of 2010. Sources within the JV claim that Vodafone, which is only managing to commission 130 sites per month, had caused 'disappointment' within O2 as its network comes under increasing strain.

O2 and Vodafone, which announced the European network sharing deal in March 2009 and was expected to save millions of Euros over the next 10 years, has stated that the relationship was strong and exceeding targets. Earlier this year, the JV said Cornerstone was 'over delivering', with an additional 300 shared sites going live since October 2009.

While network sharing has been discussed for some years and contracts signed, it is quietly recognised that implementing these deals is fraught with difficulties. Agreeing to common objectives, deployment timescales and the degree of infrastructure and back office sharing are areas where partners are said to have experienced considerable problems. 

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