Two of the world's largest mobile network operators are to join forces in a bid to speed up the delivery of super-fast 4G services to UK households. Vodafone and O2-owner Telefonica will continue to compete but will pool their infrastructure to operate and manage a single network grid across the country, according to MSN News.
Guy Laurence, Vodafone UK (LON:VOD) chief executive, said: "This partnership will close the digital divide for millions of people across the country and power the next phase of the smartphone revolution."
The announcement comes amid strong demand for smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, Research in Motion's BlackBerry and the Samsung Galaxy Note.
The new agreement will merge all infrastructure into one new company - Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure - that will also be able to offer indoor 2G and 3G coverage targeting 98% of the UK population by 2015.
Under the proposals, both companies will have access to a single grid of 18,500 masts representing an increase in sites of more than 40% for each operator. The joint venture will also be responsible for the building of new sites needed to extend coverage into rural and remote areas.
Both companies are currently engaged in discussions with Ofcom and intend to establish the joint venture and network sharing arrangement later this year.
Ronan Dunne, Telefonica UK chief executive, said: "Exceptional customer demand for the mobile internet has challenged the mobile industry to consider innovative solutions to building a nationwide network that will be fit for our customers in the future and support the products and services that will truly make Britain digital."