Thursday, March 12, 2009

What's a network operator without a network?

It seems like a stupid question. I mean, if a network operator doesn't actually operate their own network, what's the point?

News today that Vodafone and O2 may be about to strike a network sharing deal means that there could in effect only be two mobile networks in the UK.

Such is the pressure on margins - and the cost of building and maintaining a network - the network sharing seems to be an innevitable endgame in markets such as the UK. With new spectrum auctions looming for '4G' services and the cost of LTE network build-out already causing nervousness among mobile operators, it seems the obvious thing to do.

But what does it all mean? One can't help thinking that by surrendering even a little control over the network, the operators are simultaneously surrendering some control over their own destinies. Will innovation run at the same pace? Will we end up stuck with a lowest common denominator network?

With evidence from people like Actix* suggesting that operators can slash OPEX by up to 30% through automating network status management and, ultimately, moving towards a self-optimising network, are things really so bad that operators have no alternative but to share networks?

OK, as in life, there may well be degrees of sharing (what's yours is mine, what's mine is mine etc.), but for network equipment vendors and landlords of tall buildings currently seeing a base station as their best bet for a tenant in the current economic climate, it's probably not the best of news.

* Actix is an AxiCom client

No comments: