Three and EE are joining forces to cut costs on 4G, sharing backhaul and transmission.
Three and T-Mobile – one half of the EE joint venture – already share some network infrastructure, but have signed a new deal to cut costs on 4G, according to a report from the Financial Times. The partnership will accelerate 4G availability for both firms, with the rival operators sharing masts and transmission costs.
There will be some differences between the networks’ offerings, however, and the pair will keep their antennas and core networks separate. The two companies operate on the 800MHz and 1,800MHz spectrums, although EE also has 2.6GHz spectrum.
“The new framework increases cost efficiencies as we continue our rollout of 4G to cover more than 90% of the UK population by the end of the year,” an EE spokesperson told PC Pro. “This is part of our £1.5 billion three-year investment to significantly differentiate the EE network in terms of the people we connect and the experience they receive.”
While EE was the first UK operator to offer a 4G network, Three is only starting to offer access to next-gen mobile broadband.
An EE spokesman stressed that the new deal differs from the 3G partnership as the rival operators are rolling out their 4G networks at different speeds and coverage levels.
“The original deal, MBNL, was a full network share deal done in a world where T-Mobile and Three had similar 3G roll out strategies,” the spokesperson noted. “That world no longer applies, and EE is in a very different place in terms of 4G roll-out strategy.”
However, where EE charges a premium for the service, Three will upgrade its customers for free – though they’ll have to wait longer to get it. Three expects to have 98% coverage by the end of next year.
“Beyond two years, apps and services will develop to make 4G more relevant,” the FT quoted Three CEO David Dyson as saying. “Right now, a 3G network can provide most of the service for most customers.”