Telcos more than double shared sites under infrastructure pact renewal, mull fibre co-investment

Vodafone has extended its Spanish network-sharing agreement with Orange to include, amongst other things, joint use of 5G sites.

The new deal builds on a long-standing arrangement between the two telcos. They originally inked a pact in 2006, covering the sharing of passive infrastructure nationwide and of active infrastructure in smaller towns. Thursday’s announcement marks the third renewal of the deal, the other two taking place in 2012 and 2016.

Vodafone said the new agreement permits active network sharing, including the RAN and high-speed backhaul, in cities with populations of up to 175,000 people, Vodafone explained, while the previous deal applied only to towns of 1,000-25,000 people. It means that two-thirds of the population in Spain will be covered by the agreement, with 14,800 shared sites, up from 5,600 at present.

The telcos will continue to operate independent infrastructure in Spain’s big cities.

Vodafone said the extended deal will afford it capex and opex savings of €600 million over 10 years.

The operators did not provide any specific detail on the 5G element of the deal, other than to note that including 5G in their arrangement will enable them to roll out the technology more quickly and efficiently.

"As we approach a 5G world, we have a window of opportunity to design networks with other operators who share our passion for quality and coverage," said Vodafone CEO Nick Read. "These network sharing agreements mean we can provide a better service to customers, help us to address coverage requirements faster and more efficiently and also reduce the industry’s environmental impact."

Vodafone also said the new deal expands its existing FTTH wholesale arrangements "on attractive economic and technical terms," enabling it to offer fibre broadband to an additional 1 million premises using Orange’s FTTH network, taking its Spanish next-gen network footprint to 23 million homes.

The telcos will also explore the possibility of FTTH co-investment to further extend their fibre reach.