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BT and O2 ink deal to build mega 4G network

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BT has reached out to its prodigal child O2 and offered to help build it a flashy new 4G network - for a few hundred million quid.

It has signed a 10-year deal with O2 owner Telefonica UK to work on a 4G network which will be used by millions of O2 mobile customers. The deal is said to be worth around £500m over the next decade.

In 2001, BT Wireless, which included the mobile network BT Cellnet, was spun off from BT as mmO2 plc. This holding company, operating under the O2 brand that we know today, was snapped up by Spanish firm Telefonica in 2005.

The new deal will see BT Wholesale build a high capacity transmission network to help O2 cope with the stress of data-intensive 4G services.

Adrian Di Meo, chief technology officer with O2 UK, said in a canned statement: “With the UK’s 4G spectrum auction complete, UK mobile data traffic is set to grow by more than 400 per cent by 2016. This is a huge opportunity for us, as well as a technical challenge. But through our partnership with BT Wholesale, customers of O2 will be backed by a high-performance mobile internet network which we believe will release the potential of 4G services and result in unrivalled mobile phone and internet browsing experiences.”

More and more cities around the UK are now connected to 4G networks. According to Everything Everywhere, which claims to be “the UK’s most advanced digital communications company”, a total of 62 towns now boast 4G links.

It recently plugged in 12 towns, dragging Aylesbury, Berkhamsted, Billericay, Blackpool, Brentwood, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Lytham St Annes, Marlow, Pontefract, Thame and Windsor into the 21st century. The firm aims to cover 70 per cent of the UK population by the end of 2013.

Olaf Swantee, CEO of EE, said in another canned statement: “Our rollout of the country’s first 4G mobile network is continuing at a great pace to ensure that we are connecting people right across the UK to one of the fastest mobile networks in the world, as quickly as possible. Consumers and businesses in the UK use mobile internet more than any other market, and rely on it for long commutes.

“There is a demand for the best mobile services, and we’re working to meet that demand. We’re committed to rolling out 4G to 98% of the population by the end of 2014, and that includes the double-speed 4G that will launch this summer.”

During its first quarter financial results announcement, EE revealed that 318,000 customers signed up for 4G, along with more than 1,600 medium and large companies. ®

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