The two companies will share a grid of 18,500 masts across the UK – an increase of more than 40 per cent for each operator.
But both Vodafone and O2 were quick to insist that there will be no joining of wireless spectrum, core networks or customer data.
Vodafone UK boss Guy Laurence told reporters: “We compete fiercely with each other on a daily basis and there are absolutely no plans for a further merger.”
While the joint venture is partly a bid to improve 2G and 3G indoor coverage across the nation, it will also speed up the long-awaited rollout of 4G in the UK.
Vodafone and O2 said the partnership will allow the competing networks to introduce 4G to the nation faster than could be achieved independently, reaching 98 per cent of the population by 2015 – two years before the deadline stipulated by Ofcom. works will be bidding separately and competitively for 4G spectrum in the upcoming Ofcom auction.
Ronan Dunne, chief of O2, said: “One physical grid, running independent networks, will mean greater efficiency, fewer site builds, broader coverage and, crucially, investment in innovation and better competition.”
The joint company, named CTI, follows in the footsteps of MBNL, the shared infrastructure venture of 3 UK and Everything Everywhere launched in 2007.