While T-Mobile and 3UK only announced late last year their intentions to share elements of their networks, Vodafone and Orange have been negotiating the issue for many months longer.
The outcome of these discussions, and the potential success, could be critical to the future of this style of partnership.
According to Steve Griffin of PA Consulting, 2008 will be the year that radio access network (RAN) sharing comes good, or falls at the first hurdle. "Vodafone and Orange are ahead of the game and many other mobile operators are watching them closely. The key parameter is the level of benefits achieved by each company. If they're still struggling this time next year then perhaps RAN sharing will be reviewed and outsourcing will be back on the agenda."
However, Griffin maintains that RAN sharing has profound and significant implications much beyond 2008. "If it works then we could see the consolidation of telecom networks in general, with mobile operators moving to become MVNOs offering services and a brand identity."