Vodafone, Optus agree on shared 3G network

Vodafone and Optus have agreed to roll out a combined third-generation (3G) cellular network across the country.

The deal between Vodafone Australia and SingTel Optus builds on a preliminary agreement reached in August this year and will see the two companies jointly share frequency spectrum and about 2,000 base stations, the companies said in a statement.

The two carriers hope to save money by sharing the cost of building the WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) network. The initial build-out of the 2,000 base-station network covering six major cities is estimated to cost about $435 million and Optus said it expects its investment to drop by around $100 million as a result of working with Vodafone.

Construction has already begun with a view to launching the network in the third-quarter of 2005. It will initially be available in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra and then be rolled out in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, the companies said.

The network will use a system from Nokia called Multi-Operator Radio Access Network (MO-RAN) that enables a single 3G network to be shared by more multiple operators.

The agreement is conditional on necessary regulatory approvals and clearances, including authorization from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The Vodafone-Optus deal follows Telstra's August announcement that it would buy into a 3G network sharing deal with Hutchison Telecommunications.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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