O2 and Vodafone team up on UK 5G rollout

(Image credit: Vodafone)

O2 and Vodafone have announced they are teaming up to speed up the rollout of their respective 5G networks across the UK.

Vodafone launched its 5G service in several major cities earlier in July, while O2 plans to bring 5G to all four UK capitals before the end of 2019.

The new deal focuses on an expansion of the current mobile site sharing agreement between the two companies, reducing both the cost and the environmental impact of network construction while allowing each operator to better serve millions of customers across the country.

O2 Vodafone

"This agreement will enable us to roll-out 5G faster and more efficiently, benefiting customers while delivering value for our business.  It also importantly allows us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively,” said Mark Evans, O2 CEO.

The two rivals have shared some infrastructure, such as mobile towers, through a joint-venture called Cornerstone since 2012. Each company assumed responsibility for upgrades and construction in different parts of the country in order to eliminate duplication.

However, both operators retained control over customer data, spectrum and radio equipment in order to ensure a differentiated service.

However, as the project progressed, London was excluded from the arrangement in order to give each operator more autonomy to meet their different customer needs. As part of this latest expansion, O2 and Vodafone will receive greater freedom at 23 more cities, meaning a quarter of all sites are “autonomous.”

“Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment, and together with active network sharing, ensures that our customers will get super-fast 5G in even more places more quickly, using fewer masts,” Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO added.

“We can boost capacity where our customers need it most so they can take full advantage of our new unlimited plans.”

Vodafone and O2 have also confirmed that greater powers will be given to Cornerstone in order to improve efficiencies and identify monetisation options. This could include opening up masts to third parties like other operators.

Vodafone has already moved 58,000 masts elsewhere in Europe into a separate business unit for similar reasons.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.