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BT suggests more 3G sharing

The Netherlands this time

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BT has suggested another bout of 3G sharing, in the Netherlands this time. Chief exec of BT Wireless Peter Eskine told the Wall Street Journal that it has put forward a proposal to the five operators that they share just two networks rather than build five separate infrastructures.

"I would not be surprised if we end up with just two networks in the Netherlands," Erskine said. "All of us are working toward it and talking to each other to make it happen. The Dutch government is being very open-minded and pragmatic." Apparently Erskine first suggested that all five companies build just one network but the Dutch government insisted on at least two.

The idea of infrastructure sharing has already been taken on board in the UK and Germany, where several companies have teamed up to save on costs. The Netherlands operators are the usual suspects (albeit it through subsidiaries) - BT, France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone. Such deals are likely to spread over the rest of Europe.

A sharing scheme makes good sense thanks to the large number of new mobile masts that will have to be built for 3G networks to work properly. Not only is building an infrastructure costly (and after the huge sums paid for 3G licences, anything that saves operators money will be a good thing) but with public opinion turning against such masts over health fears, limiting the number of new masts will save them a public relations headache.

In Scotland, new legislation is currently under discussion which will mean companies have to apply for planning permission for any masts. It's unsure yet whether other countries will follow suit. ®

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