How do you improve network signal around the UK, lessen the number of masts and pave the way for the best 4G network all at the same time?

You might have heard that our ambitious network infrastructure plan has received the green light from the authorities. So we thought we’d bring you a complete guide to what this means and how it’s going to improve your mobile experience in some very real ways. We’re developing a comprehensive nationwide footprint that builds on the great coverage we have today and delivers the sort of experience you’ll want tomorrow. It is also part of our planning for the 4G service that we’ll be bringing you next year.

So, what does it all mean for you in real day-to-day terms? Read on and you’ll get all the answers. If you spot something you’re not sure about or want to find out more, scribble your thoughts and questions in the comments section below and we’ll be sure to reply quickly or grab the right people within Vodafone to help with a response.

In a nutshell: One grid – two competing networks 

We’ve partnered with O2 to give you even better mobile coverage across the UK, but we’re definitely not merging with them, this is only about the physical infrastructure at the end of our network. What we’re doing is putting our masts and O2’s masts together, getting rid of duplicates and building out some new ones (there will be about 18,500 of them by the time we’re done). We’ll both plug our networks into those masts and all of them will deliver a signal to our customers.

“We’ve partnered with O2 to give you even better mobile coverage across the UK.”

In order to get this ‘grid’ up and running as quickly as possible, we’ve decided to divide up responsibility for doing the work equally between the two of us. We’ve also set up an independent company to manage the passive infrastructure on the mast sites – i.e. anything that doesn’t relate to the transmission of a signal.

Vodafone will be looking after network maintenance in the West of the UK and Wales, while O2 will be looking after the East, including Northern Ireland. Both partners have signed up to strict service guarantees to make sure any issues are dealt with speedily.

We won’t be sharing our signal, our spectrum, our fibre backbone network, or any of our services. So you won’t be able to switch between a Vodafone and O2 signal. But if you’re one of our customers, you’ll be able to get a Vodafone signal from every single one of the masts across the UK, and we’ll still be controlling the traffic for the whole of our network. It also means we can continue to deliver innovative services (such as our My Vodafone app and One Net Express for our business users) as they live in the intelligent core of our network which is not part of the deal.

And if you need to speak to us you’ll get always get through to a Vodafone customer services representative, regardless of where you’re calling from.

Better coverage today

The truth is you won’t actually notice who is looking after your nearest radio mast, but we think you will notice the improvement in your indoor coverage on 2G and 3G. By building and looking after network infrastructure together we can reach more of you, faster.

We’re increasing the quality of our coverage, along with providing better indoor coverage, so you can make the most out of your mobile phone, wherever you live and work.

Work is starting now and by 2015 this plan means we’ll offer indoor 2G and 3G coverage to 98% of the UK population.

Fewer masts

Another reason we think you’ll like this partnership is the fact that we can actually reach more of you while reducing the total number of mobile phone masts in the UK.

Pooling our network infrastructure means that together we’ll be creating one national grid of around 18,500 sites, which is roughly a 40% increase in the number of sites each operator has at the moment.

We’ll be building some new sites, but we’ll also be decommissioning quite a few where the two of us overlap. So together we can offer you a bigger national grid, while reducing the total number of sites across the country by 10%.

Great coverage tomorrow

This new grid will also form the foundations for our 4G service when we launch it next year, allowing us to provide coverage using 2G, 3G or 4G services to 98% of the UK population. And we’ll get coverage to you where you use your mobile most often – indoors (our own research shows that 65% of mobile use is indoors).

“This agreement lays the foundation for us to introduce a competitive 4G network, on a new uncluttered spectrum, more quickly.”

Unlike other operators, we won’t be sharing spectrum between 2G, 3G and 4G. This agreement lays the foundation for us to introduce a competitive 4G network, on a new uncluttered spectrum, more quickly.  So you can enjoy 4G, but your experience of 3G and 2G won’t suffer.

Is there anything else I need to know?

If you’re one of the 2% of the population living in the hardest to reach areas we’ve got plans to reach you too. In addition to the our innovative Sure Signal, which provides improved indoor 3G coverage through your existing broadband connection, we’re also expanding our open femtocell trials to bring greater mobile coverage to rural communities.  More about that coming soon on Vodafone Social…