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Mobile Service Active Infrastructure Sharing

According to ABI Research, the worldwide combined savings from mobile service provider active infrastructure sharing could amount to as much as $60 billion over the next five year period.

The study finds that operators could enjoy at least 40 percent cost savings in addition to those available from passive site sharing.

The distinction between active and passive sharing is important. Passive sharing involves components such as the tower mast or pylons, cables, physical site or rooftop, shelter cabinets, power supply, air-conditioning, alarm systems, etc.

Active sharing includes antennas, antenna systems, backhaul transmission systems and the base station equipment itself. Not surprisingly, passive sharing is seen as a safer alternative, but the cost-saving rewards of active sharing are much greater.

According to senior analyst Aditya Kaul, "With most countries and regions of the world having more than one operator, network sharing is a logical way of pooling resources for common benefit. However, many operators are reluctant to share site electronics, fearing issues of competition, scalability and accountability."

Passive sharing is quite common, even mandatory in some regions. However active sharing has seen limited uptake. The most recent example: Vodafone and O2, which have recently signed a Europe-wide sharing agreement.

O2 and Vodafone are not sharing base stations. The agreement mostly concerns other elements of base station sites: it is largely passive sharing.

However, some active sharing agreements include T-Mobile and 3 in the UK, Telstra/3 and Vodafone/Optus in Australia, and in Sweden, Tele2 with Telia and Tre (3) with Telenor.

"Most of the active sharing has happened in mature markets," says Kaul, "but we see very great potential in emerging markets like India where rural expansion and 3G could drive active sharing."

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