Net Sharing in the Slow Lane

5:20 PM -- Looking at the network sharing agreement that Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and Telefónica Europe plc (O2) announced yesterday, it appears that not a lot has changed in the last two years.

Vodafone's new deal with Telefónica looks remarkably similar to the one Vodafone struck with Orange in the U.K. back in February 2007. (See VOD, O2 Share Nets and VOD, O2 to Share Networks?)

With Orange, Vodafone was going to share cell sites and work on sharing active network elements like transmission. Now, with Telefónica, Vodafone will share cell sites in Germany, Ireland, Spain, and the U.K., and explore sharing transmission infrastructure. The new deal is bigger in terms of geographic scale, but it's pretty much the same in terms of technological scope. (See Vodafone, Orange Revamp Network Share Deal, 3 & T-Mobile Share 3G in the UK, Vodafone, Orange to Share RANs, Embarq's Copper TV, and Will More Mobile Operators Dare to Share?)

So, is radio access network (RAN) sharing proving to be more difficult to achieve? Or was there just a particular issue between Orange and Vodafone that the previous agreement didn’t work out? A Vodafone spokesman tells Unstrung that the issue with Orange was that the two operators owned licenses in different frequency bands -- 900 MHz and 1800 MHz -- and that made it difficult to coordinate their varying network grids.

Vodafone hasn't totally ditched Orange, though. In the U.K., the two operators already share some sites -- Vodafone doesn't say how many -- and will continue to do so. And in Spain, Vodafone and Orange still have a RAN sharing agreement to combine active network elements in rural areas.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

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