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O2 and Vodafone join forces for UK 4G

O2 and Vodafone are joining forces, creating a shared grid to speed up the 4G rollout in the UK.

One grid to rule them all, one grid to bind them -- network giants Telefonica (which owns O2) and Vodafone are planning on joining forces to create a shared grid in the UK.

The move, which sees the longtime rivals teaming up to combine their network infrastructure, is designed to speed up the introduction of 4G services to the UK, as well as boosting existing services.

Unless anything goes haywire with the upcoming 4G spectrum auction, the blue and red-tinted operators believe they'll be doling out 4G coverage to 98 per cent of the population by 2015.

That'll be at speeds of at least 2Mbps, though the networks say actual speeds received will likely be many times faster.

Unlike Orange and T-Mobile's Everything Everywhere team-up, this new unholy alliance doesn't mean O2 and Vodafone are becoming a single entity -- only that they're agreeing to create a single grid that will beam out both operators' networks.

O2 and Vodafone are still very much competing and offering separate services, so it's unlikely customers will be able to connect to either network, in the way that Orange and T-Mobile customers are.

The two companies will pool their hardware, which means things like towers and masts. When the dust has settled, the operators plan to, er, operate on a single grid of 18,500 masts, which will result in a 10 per cent reduction of the total number of UK sites used by the two companies.

Analyst bods at Ovum reckon the unlikely pairing is a defensive move to compete with operator double-whammy Everything Everywhere. "If Vodafone and Telefonica had not also embraced sharing in this way they would have been at a competitive disadvantage," Ovum's Jeremy Green said in a statement.

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