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Vodafone jumps into bed with Three in Ireland

Pair get a little place in Dublin

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Vodafone and Three will be sharing cell sites and support infrastructure in Ireland, reducing costs to both parties while each operator maintains its network independence.

The operators aren't sharing networks, only the supporting infrastructure, but that's how Vodafone and O2 started in the UK before finally taking the plunge into cohabitation three years later. Three UK isn't so coy having jumped into bed with T-Mobile in 2008, and barely flinched when Orange was invited to join the fun a year later.

But in Ireland, Three will be taking a more cautious approach, setting up a Dublin-based joint venture to take control of the infrastructure on behalf of both companies, staffed with 60 bodies pulled out of the network operators.

Network sharing is all the rage these days, primarily because the days of competing on network coverage are past us. In most western countries, network coverage is all but ubiquitous, and the places without coverage don't generate enough revenue to be worth bothering with, so having separate networks increasingly looks like pointless replication.

In the UK we're moving towards having only have two physical networks, one shared between EE and Three, the other between Vodafone and O2. Some would push for further consolidation – a single network wholesaled to all the operators – but others contend that competition is still needed to drive deployment.

Certainly there will be more consolidation around the world, and this deal is likely to be the first step towards Vodafone and Three integrating their Irish networks further over the next few years. ®

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