The UK divisions of Vodafone and Telefonica signed-off the extension of a network sharing deal to incorporate 5G, a move expected to accelerate deployment of the new network technology while reducing costs and environmental impact.

Both operators confirmed the finalisation of the deal, first announced in January, which allows 5G active equipment to be shared on joint network sites across the UK.

To give the companies flexibility over network operations in 24 of the UK’s largest cities, 25 per cent of total mast sites will be set-up with private elements. At these locations, each operator will be responsible for their own radio equipment, fibre backhaul and power. The physical towers themselves, however, will be shared.

Management of shared facilities will fall under the two operators’ JV Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure (CTIL). Part of the venture’s remit is to provide operational efficiencies to both parent companies and seek out “potential monetisation options” for the facilities.

While Vodafone UK switched-on its first commercial 5G services earlier this month, O2 UK is yet to commit to a date for its launch. Rival EE was the first to market with the new network technology in May and the country’s other operator Three expects to launch its fixed 5G offering in August.

Telefonica UK CEO Mark Evans said the sharing deal allowed it to “utilise the spectrum we acquired in the last auction very effectively.” Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery pointed to efficiencies gained, adding it would allow the operator to deliver 5G into a greater number of locations using fewer masts.