While the announcement that Orange UK is to join the network sharing agreement already in place between 3UK and T-Mobile UK shouldn't be a shock, the number of transmitter sites it will add to the overall number will be surprisingly few.
T-Mobile and 3 already share around 12,000 sites and insiders suggest that Orange will use the new agreement to decommission a large number of base stations and bring in approximately 3,000 sites to the existing network sharing JV--Mobile-Broadband Network Limited (MBNL).
Orange has looked at joining MBNL as a way to boost overall 3G coverage where it was measured as below par by T-Mobile and 3, believing it will improve UK coverage to over 99 per cent. However, the company also maintains that the extra sites will improve 3G in-building penetration from 80 per cent to about 85 per cent.
An Everything Everywhere (the clumsy new brand for Orange and T-Mobile) spokesman said: "We can confirm that we've extended this deal. This was part of the regulations of the joint venture. It means that 3 customers will not have access to Orange's 3G network initially."
This was interpreted as meaning that 3 subscribers will have access to Orange 3G cell sites at some future date.
Earlier this year, Orange CEO, Tom Alexander, said the operator would join T-Mobile and 3's network deal, adding that sharing the network would make huge savings both in a financial and environmental sense.
While it will take MBNL three years to integrate Orange cell sites into the shared network, the company might need to review its marketing message that claims it has the best 3G network coverage in the UK.
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