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Orange and T-Mobile offer combined network access

07 сентября 2010

Everything Everywhere (EE), the combined entity formed from the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, has said that from October it will offer users access across the combined footprint of both networks.

From 5th October, 30 million customers – the combined customer base of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK - will be able to access both networks. Customers will have to register for access to the "other" network and EE's plan is for registered to customers to be able to automatically be authenticated on the "other" network, if signal is lost on their existing network. Tom Alexander, CEO, said that the operators would also include access to WiFi and fixed network assets within one "super network".

Of interest to industry watchers will be the news that EE is intending to use this network sharing as a form of crude traffic management and Quality of Service control. A statement from the company said, "Next year customers can expect benefits such as automatically switching to whichever of the two networks has the strongest signal while they’re mid-call, and enhanced data and internet coverage."

Detecting network signal strength and performing a hand-off across networks proves that the companies have taken steps in the background to integrate the signalling and control layers of the networks.
Although EE says that it will work both brands on a co-opetition basis, offering a harmonised or optimised network quality experience will necessarily eliminate one possible area of differentiation.

But the move also shows that instead of moving to just one network, EE will continue to view its networks for the time being as two separate networks-albeit with identical access privileges for users.

Another question that occurs is how the operators will charge each other for traffic termination, or carrying each other's data. If a data session is begun on Orange's network, but then hands over to T-Mobile's network because it offers greater bandwidth at that time, then how will the session be handled financially between the operators? T-Mobile has effectively handled Orange's data for it. Orange will bill the customer, or rate the data used against his bundle- essentially extracting the benefit from the session. Will Orange then pay T-Mobile for carrying the bulk of the data on behalf of its own customer? That would be a normal interconnect relationship, except in this case between two entities that share an owner.

The easiest way to deal with that, eliminating any added cost or complecity, would be to treat the network as one network, serving a combined user base. So it may not be too much of a stretch to view this announcement as the first move to a combined network, and business model.

Never one to undersell itself, EE described the move as "the start of the single, biggest improvement of network coverage since the birth of mobile".

Источник: Mobile Europe

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