The 10-year agreement, worth hundreds of millions of pounds, will boost O2’s ability to handle an anticipated explosion in mobile data use, and will heighten speculation that it is in pole position to win a separate contract to run BT’s mobile network.
BT recently opened a tender process for deciding whose airwaves it would use for its mobile services, which are used by its 90,000 employees as well as corporate customers, having ditched current partner Vodafone.
However, it has denied that the process is part of a bid to re-enter the consumer mobile market.
Yesterday, O2 said that BT providing what is known as backhaul – transmission services between masts – for its forthcoming 4G network would allow it to stay ahead of a massive rise in traffic across its airwaves.
O2, which is expected to launch the high-speed network in the coming months, raised eyebrows after Ofcom’s recent auction of 4G spectrum, when it emerged with a far lower proportion of the airwaves than its rivals.
“UK mobile data traffic is set to grow by more than 400 per cent by 2016,” O2’s chief technology officer Adrian Di Meo said, claiming that the partnership would “result in unrivalled mobile phone and internet browsing experiences”.