Spanish Telecom Giants Collaborate to Enhance Rural 5G Coverage

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Spain’s top three mobile operators have struck a deal to share spectrum in the 700 MHz band, aiming to improve rural coverage and secure government funding. This agreement involves Telefonica’s Movistar, the newly formed MasOrange, and Vodafone’s Spanish division.

According to sources cited by Expansion, the collaboration will allow these companies to pool their frequencies, enhancing their capacity and expanding 5G network coverage in hard-to-reach areas. While the companies have not publicly commented on the arrangement, the initiative aligns with the Spanish government’s UNICO programme. This programme, part of the broader post-Covid recovery efforts funded by the EU, aims to provide universal access to ultra-fast broadband and expand 5G coverage in underserved regions.

UNICO, short for Universalization of Digital Infrastructures for Cohesion, is managed by Spain’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation. It has already allocated significant funding to improve network reach in less economically viable areas. The latest phase of the programme, UNICO 5G Redes Activas, will distribute €544 million in grants to deploy 5G equipment in towns with populations under 10,000. The funding targets rural areas lacking current 4G coverage or plans for 4G in the next three years, supporting both active and passive infrastructure needs.

The cooperation among Spain’s leading mobile network operators (MNOs) means that any company deploying a network in a specific zone can utilize the 700 MHz spectrum from all three operators in that area. Each operator holds 2×10 MHz in this band, which individually supports speeds of around 40 Mbps. Combined, they can achieve up to 100 Mbps, meeting the government’s objectives.

This strategic spectrum-sharing deal positions the MNOs favorably for the upcoming UNICO 5G Redes Activas funding contest. The government began accepting applications last year, with the winners expected to be announced soon. The collaboration is a proactive step by the telecom giants to align with government goals and enhance rural connectivity across Spain.

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