Rumour mill: Orange/T-Mobile UK to build new network

Having been given the formal OK to merge, Orange and T-Mobile are said to be holding talks with equipment vendors about building a new UK network to support the new enlarged company.

T-Mobile UK is reported to have discussed the feasibility of building a network from scratch with Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei using new base stations to cover the 900MHz to 2.6GHz bandwidths, enabling GSM, UMTS and LTE services.

The talks have centred on a rapid roll-out and how the new base stations could save on Opex costs by using significantly less power than existing sites. If the project is given the go-ahead, then it could mirror work done by Telenor and Tele2 in Sweden, which announced in April 2009 a joint venture to build a 4G network and to share 900MHz-2600MHz frequency. Telenor is also rebuilding its networks in Norway and Denmark, and 3 is doing the same in Austria.

However, Orange have quietly downplayed the idea of such a radical overhaul, only admitting that the joint venture would require the engagement with infrastructure companies to help bring about a merger of the two networks.

An Orange spokesperson said: "Combining the two networks would be a significant integration project which would require expertise from the best in the market to guarantee a smooth and successful transition."

One industry watcher never afraid to comment, John Strand, of Strand Consult, said that the idea had legs and that the merged company could rebuild an entire network from the ground up in a swift and cost effective manner, and save on the headache of integrating infrastructure of varying age and technology. "The costs of building it would be marginal compared to previously. A new network would support 2G, 3G and LTE, which would mean it could offer faster speeds across its entire base before any of its rivals."

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