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Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 Extend Network Sharing Agreement

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Vodafone UK and Virgin Media O2 have solidified a groundbreaking agreement aimed at extending and enhancing their mobile network sharing for over a decade. This move builds on their already strong partnership, with provisions that hinge on the regulatory approval of the proposed Vodafone UK and Three UK merger.

Ahmed Essam, CEO of European Markets at Vodafone, remarked, “With this agreement and our merger with Three, we will transform the mobile experience for over 50 million customers in the UK for the long-term, providing significant network improvements including more choice, better quality, and greater coverage across the country.”

Essam emphasizes that these cooperative ventures are set to revolutionize the competitive landscape of UK mobile markets, benefiting both retail and wholesale MVNO customers.

Lutz Schüler, CEO at Virgin Media O2, echoed similar sentiments. Schüler stated, “This new agreement with Vodafone ensures that quality mobile network choice, performance, coverage, and competition is enhanced to the benefit of millions of consumers, businesses, and our mobile operator partners across the country.”

An important part of this agreement is that it addresses issues raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding the proposed Vodafone-Three merger. Schüler voiced confidence, saying, “We believe that this new agreement addresses the issues we have voiced and the CMA outlined in its initial decision, and will now continue our engagement with the regulator in this spirit.”

The partnership entails massive investments in network infrastructure. MergeCo has committed an £11 billion investment in its network over the next decade, contingent on CMA approval. Concurrently, Virgin Media O2 will continue its £2 billion annual investment into networks and services. These investments promise significant benefits, not only for their direct customers but also for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that depend on wholesale partnerships to deliver services.

Massimo Fatato, Head of Networks at NTT DATA UK&I, commented, “The Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 agreement will be welcome news to MVNOs grappling with spiraling costs and tougher competition. This partnership – along with MergeCo and VMO2’s multi-billion-pound investment in networks and services – underscores how long-term collaborations can provide much-needed stability for operators to open up new streams of revenue, while continuing on the path of improving customer experience with a more granular, optimized, and efficient network coverage.”

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