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Telcos to improve mobile coverage through site-sharing
04/05/2012 - Optus and Vodafone say they plan to beef up their mobile coverage through sharing more of each other's network mobile sites. Jordan Chong
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Optus and Vodafone, the number two and number three players in the Australian market, announced on Thursday an agreement to jointly build 500 new mobile base stations over the next four years.
Optus said the site-sharing agreement enabled it and Vodafone to share costs for new and existing mobile sites and would significantly expand overall network coverage.
The partnership, which is subject to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission approval, allows the two telcos access to a number of each other's mobile sites from April 2013.
It will also help both bring forward super-fast 4G mobile services, currently being offered by Telstra.
Vodafone said it would have 1,800 new sites - the 500 being built over the next four years, plus access to 400 Optus sites and 900 sites from the "3" mobile network - over the next four years.
Vodafone and the "3" mobile network merged in June 2009, with the "3" brand to eventually disappear from the market.
The full year accounts of the merged company Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) showed the telco lost more than half a million customers last year.
"We've listened to our customers and we're responding to their demands by delivering a better, faster, more reliable network across Australia," new VHA chief executive Bill Morrow said in a statement.
For Optus, the agreement, if approved, will give it almost 1,000 new mobile sites - access to 460 sites on the Vodafone network and the 500 new shared sites being built - by 2015.
In a separate development, Vodafone signed a new five-year agreement for its customers to use the Optus network in selected regional areas from April 2013.
A senior analyst at industry research group Ovum, Nicole McCormick, said the proposed tie-up showed Optus was "leaving no stone unturned" in minimising its cost structure, having announced on Wednesday plans to cut 750 jobs.
"This will help to cement its number two position in the market as the alternative operator to Telstra," McCormick said in a research note.
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