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Three UK and EE Invest GBP1bn into Shared 4G Mobile Broadband Network

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 (8:42 am) - Score 2,891

Mobile operators EE (T-Mobile and Orange UK) and Three UK have agreed to expand their 50/50 network sharing deal, through the umbrella organisation called Mobile-Broadband Network Limited (MBNL), with an extra investment of £1 billion to improve 4G (LTE) based Mobile Broadband coverage and cut costs.

At present EE expects its 4G network to reach 98% of the population by the end of 2014 and Three UK intends to reach the same target, albeit one year later. Both operators are making use of the 1800MHz and 800MHz radio frequency bands for their service, although EE also has a slice of 2.6GHz to play with.

According to the FT (paywall), the new deal will accelerate the operators existing roll-out plans and the greater proportion of network sharing (i.e. mast infrastructure and transmission costs etc.) should also help to cut costs. But unlike before the revised deal means that there will actually be greater separation between the networks in other areas.

In particular Three UK are offering access to their “all-you-can-eat” style 4G network “at no extra cost“, while EE prefers to charge a premium and caps their data allowances under stricter terms. As a result the FT claims that the antennas, spectrum and the core network will be different for the two groups so that service quality is a unique measure for each (note: it’s unclear precisely what the FT means by different spectrum as both have neighbouring coverage in the same bands).

Overall it’s understood that EE are investing £1.4bn to build their 4G network, while Three UK intends to spend £500m. The £1bn mooted above is believed to be coming from these two existing commitments. Ultimately today’s move, given the existing agreement, was perhaps inevitable and it should help to keep both operators competitive. O2 and Vodafone have a similar network sharing agreement, although their packages are not as different as Three UK and EE’s.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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