First Passive Infrastructure Sharing; Then Active Element Sharing, Now Shared 4G LTE Spectrum Sharing?

It has been clear for some time that ownership of mobile cell sites is not necessarily “strategic” for a mobile service provider. Carriers often lease space on towers owned by third parties, sharing those sites with rivals.

In India and some markets in Africa, mobile service providers agree to share the cost of tower facilities. Some service providers outsource actual operations of their radio networks as well.

So it isn’t unusual anymore for a group of mobile operators to agree they will share tower site passive elements.

In the latest such example, mobile carriers Cellcom Israel Ltd., Pelephone Communications Ltd., and Golan Telecom Ltd. have agreed to build and operate a shared Long Term Evolution fourth generation radio network.

Cellcom and Pelephone also signed an agreement for the sharing of passive elements of cell sites for existing networks and an Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU) agreement with Golan Telecom for Cellcom's 2G and 3G networks.

The infrastructure sharing also might save Cellcom and Partner Communications as much as $57 million a year, according to an estimate of the brokerage unit of Ramat-Gan, Israel-based Excellence Nessuah Investment House.

What might be more unusual is cooperation in obtaining spectrum for the 4G network. Though the language is open to interpretation, and the sharing deals might require regulatory approval, it also appears the consortium will attempt to acquire common 4G spectrum as well.

That would be unprecedented, if it happens.

The 4G radio network will be built and operated by a separate, newly created entity that will be equally owned by Cellcom and Pelephone. It will be overseen by a steering committee comprising representatives of all three carriers that will make the strategic decisions regarding the 4G network by majority vote.
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