Mobile companies may have to hold hands over 3G cost

Foul-weather friends

The extortionate cost of building 3G phone networks has prompted mobile companies to discuss working together on making the dream a reality. Having spent a fortune on winning the 3G licences, mobile companies still have to build very expensive networks before they can even start recouping the cost from consumers.

The BT-owned German mobile company Viag Interkom has said that it is talking with its competitors over sharing the cost of the networks, which involves new base stations and updating equipment to handle 3G. Since the big telecoms companies - British, France, Deutsche Tele(c/k)om - own the majority of mobile companies in Europe and will face the same cost problems in each country, Europe-wide alliances are a distinct possibility.

Apart from the raw cost of building the network, the alliances may also allow for a more coherent network to be built i.e. carefully spaced base stations and could even remove the current, confusing situation where the different operators are constantly charging for calls carried over each others' networks.

That can only be a good thing and would also save poor old Oftel from having to work out what was going on.

However, the German willingness to co-operate doesn't seem to have made it over the Channel yet. We're still waiting for comments from BT Cellnet and Vodafone and we were very disappointed by the previously friendly Orange. Ever since France Telecom bought it and CEO Hans Snook ran away, a Gallic arrogance has overcome the company. In the old days, a question was usually greeted with an answer. Orange has made no statement and there is no announcement regarding 3G cost-sharing. And since the world revolves around it... ®

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