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EC waves through 3G UK network share

T-Mobile, mmO2 strike up the band

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The EC has given the thumbs up for a 3G site-sharing agreement struck between T-Mobile and mmO2 in the UK. It says it expects to approve soon a similar site-share between the two companies in Germany. By teaming up in both countries, the duo can expect to save a few hundred million euro in capital expenditure.

The Commission also ruled that there are no competition concerns between a proposed network share, which is restricted to "smaller cities and rural areas".

National roaming agreements will not include the UK's 10 biggest cities, where, presumably, population density is high enough for the two mobile network operators to build exclusive infrastructure cost-effectively. It seems that this concession, offered by T-Mobile and mmO2 in March 2003, was the key to gaining EC approval. The site and network share proposal had, after all, been sitting in Brussels since February 2002.

The site share also escapes competition concern as it is restricted to "sharing basic network infrastructure such as masts, power supply, racking and cooling". Besides, fewer masts chime with EU health and environmental policy, which is a bonus.

According to the EC, the site-share will see a quicker 3G roll-out and better coverage into the countryside than would otherwise be the case. And it has exempted national roaming from antitrust rules in smaller cities until the end of 2007 and rural areas until the end of 2008.

In a statement Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said: "This decision strikes the right balance between infrastructure competition in 3G markets and the immediate consumer benefit of having faster and wider roll-out of advanced 3G services. It gives guidance to mobile operators on the extent of co-operation that it permissible at this important juncture for the roll-out of 3G services across the EU".

The press release is here ®

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