U.K. operators O2 and Vodafone have announced a new deal to trade airwaves to create more efficient blocks of 5G spectrum.

The two operators already share mast infrastructure in parts of the U.K.

The carriers noted that this new deal will enable improved coverage for customers – both indoor and outdoor – across urban, suburban and rural areas. They also highlighted that large contiguous blocks support faster speeds and lower latency.

The move will, subject to approval from local telecommunications services regulator Ofcom, create a contiguous block of 80 megahertz for O2, and ensure good proximity of Vodafone’s blocks totaling 90 megahertz of spectrum.

“This year O2 is investing more than ever in its network to improve coverage and experience. Securing contiguous blocks of spectrum is crucial to harnessing the true power of 5G – we will have the strongest indoor and outdoor connectivity and an ultra-reliable frequency,” said Mark Evans, CEO of O2.

Ahmed Essam, CEO of Vodafone UK, said: “The result of this auction and our agreement with O2 will help us continue our mission of connecting our customers for a better future. It means we have the best possible spectrum to continue giving our customers a fast and reliable 5G service. It will also enable us to open up amazing new possibilities for our enterprise customers, putting Britain at the forefront of innovation in vital areas like assisted surgery, remote training, and factory automation.”

In the U.K.’s most recent spectrum auction, O2 secured 2×10 megahertz of paired frequency spectrum in the 700 MHz band at a cost of £280 million ($390 million); and 40 megahertz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band at a cost of £168 million.

Meanwhile, Vodafone committed to pay £176.4 million for 40 megahertz in the 3.6-3.8 GHz band.

According to Vodafone’s website, the operator has launched 5G in 100 U.K. markets and in an additional 193 markets around Europe. When the carrier first launched next-generation services in July of 2019, it did so in parts of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Glasgow.

The carrier is actively working towards transitioning its current network to a SA 5G one and teamed up with a number of partners including Ericsson, MediaTek, OPPO and Qualcomm as part of this plan. Last year, almost exactly a year after its initial launch, Vodafone showcased its SA 5G network, built for Coventry University, claiming that it was the first live SA 5G deployment in the country.

Meanwhile, O2, owned by Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, said that its nationwide 5G network now reaches over 150 towns and cities across the UK.

O2 launched its 5G network in the UK in October 2019. O2’s 5G network was initially available in certain areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. The carrier said that the initial focus for its 5G network was on highly populated areas including railway stations, shopping centers and sports stadiums.

The carrier is deploying its 5G infrastructure in partnership with Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia.


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