Vodafone and O2 have agreed to share their 5G networks in order to speed up their rollouts of the next-generation technology.
Customers of both networks should get 5G sooner than expected after the mobile operators agreed to cooperate, sharing equipment such as radio antennas across the UK.
Read more: What is 5G? Everything you need to know
The operators will share masts in 23 large cities but here they will also install their own 5G equipment at around 2,700 sites, building their own radio equipment, fibre connections and power supplies.
That is in addition to London, which was covered in an agreement last year.
“Greater autonomy in major cities will allow us to accelerate deployment, and together with active network sharing, ensures that our customers will get super-fast 5G in even more places more quickly, using fewer masts,” Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK’s chief executive, said.
“We can boost capacity where our customers need it most so they can take full advantage of our new unlimited plans. And it demonstrates our commitment to further invest in our multi-billion pound network in the years to come, helping the UK become a digital pioneer.”
The rollout allows Vodafone and O2 to bolster 5G capacity in busy areas to meet fresh demand while saving on the rollout of new 5G masts.
Vodafone slashed its dividend by 40 per cent in May to help fund its 5G rollout, as well as to free up cash for its $22bn Liberty Global takeover.
The operator started its 5G rollout on 3 July and said its 5G network has now reached 15 towns and cities, with the goal of hitting 19 by the end of the year.
Telefonica’s O2, meanwhile, has only said it will begin its 5G rollout this year.
Mark Evans, chief exec of Telefonica UK, said: “This agreement will enable us to roll-out 5G faster and more efficiently, benefiting customers while delivering value for our business. It also importantly allows us to utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.”
EE, the first UK mobile operator to introduce 5G, beat both to the technology by starting its 5G network roll out in late May.