DT and Telefonica/O2 plan active site sharing in Germany

Jan 20, 2021

via Flickr © bengrey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © bengrey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Gray spots to be rubbed out by sharing antennas in difficult areas
  • 4G access in the 800 MHz to be offered across both networks
  • DT sees move as one small part of a rising tide of sharing

What’s not to like? Just a few years ago any move to initiate or expand various forms of mobile network sharing were viewed with caution, if not outright suspicion, by regulators, end users, and other (non-sharing) operators. 

It’s easy to see why. The act of sharing was, in and of itself, just one step away from something that looked a lot like collusion... or at least potential collusion. For a multiplayer industry founded on competition and believing that without it players would lose their edge, then if there was a clearly defined ‘grain’ in mobile, sharing went against it. 

Over the last decade or so network and infrastructure sharing has gradually become more accepted. Partly this is because of a heightened awareness of costs and where they fall. As margins diminished that last 20 per cent or so of network  buildout - usually covering thinly populated regions - looked more and more unviable. And so carefully regulated (usually) infrastructure sharing agreements became more common to sugar the pill of meeting network build requirements and getting rid of so-called ‘not-spots’ where coverage was weak to non-existent. 

But now there are signs that mobile telcos are keen to go much further and are looking to further the role of what they are now tending to call a “collaborative network build-out strategies” centre stage. 

Network sharing and shared build is now common (in fact nearly universal) when it comes to fixed network build: could mobile benefit from something similar? 

Obviously mobile is different - it’s all about sharing scarce and expensive spectrum and making sure its ownership isn’t abused. But could careful regulation and oversight enable much more and much easier sharing in future? Sharing without the fuss?

Small steps forward 

Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica / O2 have announced that they are working together with an arrangement that will see coverage difficulties overcome for  ’several hundred’ gray spots in Germany. Not absolutely ‘no signal’ areas, but areas where coverage is nevertheless weak, but too sparsely populated to justify three or four operators from setting up coverage there

The telcos plan to share ‘active’ network technology, an approach that is usually considered difficult from both a technical/commercial and regulatory point of view.  

The idea is to offer all customers 4G access in the 800 MHz frequency band at each site. Because the active radio technology is doing the sharing on one band, the sharing arrangement can be implemented in software.

With other sharing approaches each player could only share masts and power supplies and the active tech comprising antennas and transmission kit had to be installed for each operator. Obviously active component sharing, if it can be made to work fairly easily, is a more economical and flexible approach. 

Deutsche Telekom clearly sees this move as one small part of a rising tide of sharing activity: “Joint projects like this are becoming increasingly important to network build-out – in both broadband and mobile communication. Together with Telefónica / O2 we can make an important contribution to providing better, uninterrupted LTE coverage in Germany,” said Srini Gopalan, Managing Director of Telekom Deutschland. “We're teaming up with our competition to ensure that even more people in Germany can use a better network. This agreement further attests to our conviction that digitalizing Germany works best through cooperation.”

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