Vodafone claims to be the first operator in the UK to activate 5G multi-operator radio access network (MORAN) technology, enabling providers to share base stations.
The advantages of this arrangement are that it reduces energy consumption and the number of masts needed. Vodafone and Telefonica UK (which operates in the UK under the O2 brand) finalised an agreement to share 5G equipment last July.
This includes radio antennas, on joint network sites across the UK, expanding an infrastructure-sharing deal.
The MORAN technology is also likely to be key to the UK government’s £1 billion Shared Rural Network scheme to deliver better connectivity to underserved areas.
Network-sharing is a growing trend and a recent report from Rethink Research concluded that sharing assets is a key way to make 5G RAN affordable.
Several deals have been announced recently. For instance, in November, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica Deutschland and Vodafone signed a letter of intent to team up on the construction and operation of up to 6,000 new cell sites for expanded mobile coverage across rural areas and transportation routes in Germany. The same month, Orange Belgium and Proximus finalised a network-sharing agreement, which has been halted temporarily while the possible effects on competition are examined.
The biggest initiative so far is thought to be in China. In September, giants China Telecom and China Unicom announced plans to jointly build and manage a 5G RAN.