UK mobile operator O2, owned by Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica, announced that its 5G network already reaches part of 180 towns and cities across the country.

“O2 continued to invest in strengthening the network experience for its customers. The company secured a significant share of airwaves in the latest Ofcom spectrum auction investing £448m to obtain 40 megahertz of 3.6 GHz spectrum and 20 megahertz of 700 MHz FDD spectrum,” the telco said in a release. “O2 is now the U.K.’s leading holder of sub-1Gb spectrum enabling broad indoor and outdoor geographic coverage and reliability. Subject to Ofcom’s approval, the company will also have 80 megahertz of contiguous 5G spectrum providing optimum download speeds for customers.”

Last month, O2 and rival operator Vodafone had 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.

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.

O2’s operations are headed toward a major transition. In May 2020, Liberty Global and Telefonica had reached an agreement to merge their U.K. operations in a 50-50 joint venture. This move brings together O2 with cable operator Virgin Media and its MVNO Virgin Mobile.

The combined subscriber base of the two companies, as of the end of 2019, was 46 million, and they would have combined annual revenue of £11 billion (currently $15.5 billion).

Liberty Global and Telefonica previously said that the transaction is expected to close by mid-2021 and is subject to regulatory approvals.

The two firms also said that the JV is expected to generate significant operating benefits, with estimated run-rate cost, capex and revenue synergies of £540 million on an annual basis by the fifth full year post closing. The key expected sources of cost and capex synergies include the use of existing infrastructure to provide services for each entity’s customers at lower cost compared to standalone capabilities and the migration of Virgin Media mobile traffic to Telefonica UK’s network, among others.


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