British cellco Orange UK is reportedly set to link up with Mobile Broadband Network Ltd (MBNL), the 3G network sharing joint venture formed in December 2007 between T-Mobile UK and Hutchison 3G UK (H3G UK). According to ZDNet UK, the move comes in the wake of the merger between Orange and T-Mobile, with both mobile operators now wholly owned by Everything Everywhere, itself a 50/50 joint venture between the duo’s respective former parent companies, European telecoms groups France Telecom (FT) and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom (DT). A formal announcement is expected by the end of this week, with it understood that MBNL will become a 50/50 joint venture between H3G UK and Everything Everywhere, while Orange for its part will contribute several thousand of its base stations for network sharing purposes.
As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, MBNL was created after T-Mobile and H3G UK agreed to pool their respective 3G infrastructures in a 50/50 joint venture, with the duo claiming the move would allow them to construct the UK’s best third-generation network more efficiently and far faster than either could independently. At present MBNL’s HSPA-based infrastructure covers more than 90% of the British population, and by the end of 2010 this figure is expected to rise to more than 98%, with the JV having already consolidated more than 7,000 of the 12,500 cell sites that the initial two partners had said will be merged by October 2010.