The big news in the industry today is a tie-up between Vodafone and Telefonica to collaborate and share stuff to save money.
Last week, there were quite a few rumours about a proposed network sharing deal between the two companies. Commentators were falling over themselves to explain what bad news this would be for ‘telecom equipment suppliers.’
Now the companies have announced exactly what their collaboration entails, things are a little clearer. This Reuters piece gives a pretty accurate lowdown. The companies “will share sites, equipment including masts, and power supply, but will keep their own radio equipment and vendors.”
Of course, many commentators don’t want these facts to get in the way of a good story. Reading some of the coverage you could be left with a very different impression as the “bad news for telecom equipment suppliers” line is given more of an airing.
Still, as operators look for more ways to drive efficiency and focus on what they do well, ‘real’ network sharing – the equipment, not just sites, masts and power supplies – may become an increasing option.
We’re actually very positive about sharing of network assets as a way of ensuring excellent, geographical coverage, particularly for new 3G services. The wider the coverage and more accessible any new service is, the more people use it and this drives up traffic that can support future investment. It’s a virtuous circle. We agree with Telefonica and Vodafone: the main opex savings for operators can be found through reducing site costs – either through sharing them, or using our very small footprint BTS that requires no separate space and can be wall or roof mounted. (see photo!)
However, an approach that entails actually sharing live telecom equipment can be limited where individual operators have different strategies for rural and city coverage, the types of services they want to support and the geographical coverage they are after. After all, an operator’s coverage can remain a competitive advantage, linked tightly to its strategy.
We have all radio network sharing methods available – from site sharing (sharing site construction and rental costs) to RAN sharing (sharing the actual radio access network elements). If and when operators are ready to merge their RAN, we have the multi-vendor expertise to smoothly manage this transition and also have the most flexible BTS able to fit any existing site. (see photo, again!)
We have a proven solution for RAN sharing – our references include MBNL, the biggest shared 3G network globally between 3 UK and T-Mobile UK, and a shared RAN by Vodafone and Optus in Australia.
Of course, when it comes to bringing networks together, the right multi-vendor expertise is required to manage it properly. This links directly to the “news of the week” last week – outsourcing network operations (see our deals with Orange in the UK and Spain). In fact, we’ve built, operated and maintained the shared 3GIS network in Sweden since 2004.
So if you can couple expert managed services, with a portfolio that also supports more efficient shared network resources, there are certainly plenty of opportunities to drive greater efficiency throughout the world’s mobile networks.
All of this points to the fact that we are no longer a “telecom equipment supplier.” The equipment is key – ensuring it’s the most energy efficient (tick), compact (tick), reliable (tick) and offers a smooth upgrade to 3G and LTE (tick) – but so are the services that are wrapped up with providing and managing it. The added value consultancy and management we provide are as much a core business as the ‘equipment.’ That can be too easily overlooked.