Mobile phone giants Vodafone and O2 have agreed to share radio antennas and equipment that will speed up the rollout of 5G superfast internet, the companies have announced.
Bosses hope the deal will allow it to take on the might of larger rival EE, which is owned by BT, and reduce the need for more masts and towers in major cities.
They also hinted that costs could be lower for the public as the deal “lowers rollout costs, allowing more investment in services for customers”.
The deal will see the pair share approximately 2,700 sites in 23 cities across the UK, representing around 16% of combined mast sites.
Combined with a mast-sharing deal in London announced last year, Vodafone and O2, which is owned by Spanish business Telefonica, will control around one in four sites across the country.
Nick Jeffery, chief executive of Vodafone UK, said: “Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment and, together with active network sharing, ensures that our customers will get superfast 5G in even more places more quickly, using fewer masts.”
Mark Evans, chief executive of Telefonica UK, said: “Today is an important step in demonstrating our commitment to invest for the future, with mobile connectivity one of the UK’s most powerful opportunities to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of British people.”
The deal also sees the creation of a joint venture called Cornerstone, which will be responsible for managing the passive tower infrastructure owned by the pair.
Both companies said: “Vodafone and O2 will now proceed to explore potential monetisation options for Cornerstone.”
O2 revealed in February that its 5G rollout will go to Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London first, with other areas due in 2020.
Vodafone launched its service in March across Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool, with 19 towns and cities having access to the service during the rest of 2019.
Take-up of 5G is expected to be slow this year, with a limited number of handsets available to connect to the superfast speeds.