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O2 Announces New Business Division, 5G Plans, Agreement with Vodafone

Shared masts, own radio equipment, fibre backhaul connection and power supply

By CBR Staff Writer

O2 says it will launch a 5G network in October, covering Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. The news comes a day after it agreed a 5G network infrastructure sharing agreement with Vodafone – which switched on its own nascent 5G network earlier this month.

The O2 5G network will stretch to 20 towns by the end of the year, the Telefonica-owned company said. In an internal shakeup, it is also launching a O2 Business division – dedicated to building a “5G economy” – on August 1 that will consolidate its existing B2B activity across Enterprise and Wholesale partners.

“O2 Business will bring together all product development (including IOT, data and 5G) alongside its Enterprise and Wholesale sales and commercial teams,” the company said this morning. “The division will focus on supporting business customers to use technology to solve their business problems.”

O2 Business: Follows Vodafone Agreement

Yesterday O2 and Vodafone agreed to share 5G active equipment, such as radio antennas, on joint network sites across the UK.

But they also promised “greater 5G network autonomy” on approximately 2,700 sites in 23 of the UK’s larger cities, representing 16 percent of their combined mast sites.

The two said that this gives both parties “more flexibility to meet the needs of their customers and deploy future network technologies.”

“At these sites, each party will install their own radio equipment, fibre ‘backhaul’ connection and power supply, whilst continuing to limit the environmental impact by sharing the physical elements such as the mast.”

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The two will also look to “capture further efficiencies” from Cornerstone, the 50:50 joint venture company that owns and manages the parties’ passive tower infrastructure, and will “proceed to explore potential monetisation options for Cornerstone.”

5G: 50 Towns by Next Year

With regard to its 5G network, the company said it will secure coverage across 50 towns and cities by next summer. It will be offering two 5G-ready phones: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G from Thursday 8 August, and the Xiaomi Mix 3 5G coming later in August.

“Further devices will be rolled out ready for launch,” the company said, adding: “Following the launch of 5G in October, both consumer and business customers will be able to select a 5G tariff that suits them.”

The company offered few other details on tariffs, in contrast to Vodafone, which made a splash when switching on its 5G network earlier this month by offering Vodafone Business Unlimited plans with unlimited data and 5G at same price as 4G. (Sim only for £21.66; 10Mbps). That service is initially only available for small businesses.

EE meanwhile switched on its 5G network across six cities – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh – in May, announcing plans to switch over 1,500 mast towers from 4G to 5G by the end of the year.

See also: A Succinct Guide to Vodafone’s 5G Launch

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