BARCELONA (Reuters) – Vodafone may replicate elements of its British mobile towers joint venture in other markets but not necessarily to the extent of sharing radio equipment in major cities, its chief executive said on Wednesday.
Nick Read said on Tuesday that Vodafone could increase the utilisation of its assets such as 58,000 mobile phone masts it has in Europe, by encouraging rival operators to use them or selling a stake to a mobile tower operator.
Such a plan could mirror a venture Vodafone has in Britain with Telefonica, named CTIL, which manages the mobile network infrastructure for both companies. But Read said not all aspects of the deal in Britain had worked out.
“We’ve learnt passive sharing is fine, it’s a good thing to do,” Read told investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Barcelona on Wednesday. “Active sharing gets more complex.”
Active sharing involves two operators using the same radio equipment, whereas in passive sharing each operator puts its own technology on each mast.
Read said different requirements for the Vodafone network in Britain and Telefonica’s O2 network had created problems in busy urban areas.
“In big cities it probably doesn’t work, it’s a bit too painful and you get inconsistencies in customers’ experience. So what we did in the UK was we unwound London,” he said. “We may unwind a little bit more in the UK in some of the big cities.”
Telefonica had not immediate comment.
Read said Vodafone’s European towers would be put into a single internal unit to drive efficiencies. Vodafone would then consider whether to sell a minority stake to a tower company.
“It’s important to maintain strategic control,” he said. “The likelihood is more a minority (investment) if we go that route.”
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Edmund Blair)