The landmark network-sharing deal would see TPG Telecom and Vodafone using parts of the Telstra network.
Massive network deal could offer Vodafone users more coverage than Optus
After the huge 2018 merger of equals between TPG and Vodafone, TPG Telecom is gearing up for another monumental deal, this time with Telstra. The decade-long networking-sharing agreement will give TPG Telecom access to around 3,700 of Telstra’s mobile towers across Australia (much like an MVNO partnership), resulting in better 4G and 5G coverage for customers that currently use the Vodafone/TPG network.
The deal will also give Telstra access to 169 existing TPG Telecom sites, where the former plans to introduce additional infrastructure in a bid to improve connectivity for customers of both corporations.
Speaking about the proposed deal, Telstra CEO Andrew Penn had this to say:
With the additional coverage gained from the deal with Telstra, TPG Telecom would be in a position to deliver coverage to 98.8% of the Australian population, up from 96% of the Australian population at last estimate. The deal would make TPG Telecom’s network the second-largest in Australia, a title long held by the Optus network (which covers 98.5% of Australia’s population).
CEO Iñaki Berroeta also commented on the possibility of an expanded network, stating that TPG Telecom will be “open for business in regional and rural Australia like never before, offering a 4G network that provides 98.8% population coverage and rapidly growing 5G coverage across the nation.”
TPG Telecom estimates that the extended coverage will be available to its customers by the end of 2022 but the deal is yet to be approved by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). If it all goes ahead, TPG Telecom will have the option to extend the deal for another decade (in five-year increments).
Who will benefit from the network-sharing deal?
While Telstra customers will see some small benefit from the deal, the real winners here are TPG Telecom’s customers. That includes mobile users signed up with Vodafone, TPG, iiNet and Felix. It will also create more competition in the regional areas targeted in the deal, resulting in more viable mobile options for many Australians currently stuck with Telstra (or a Telstra MVNO).
That’s in the short term, at least. Vodafone, and more recently Felix, have traditionally offered more affordable mobile plans at the expense of coverage. Whether or not the network-sharing deal will impact plan pricing from TPG Telecom’s four providers is yet to be seen.
There was also no mention of Vodafone's own MVNOs in the announcement. So we don't know exactly what the news would mean for providers like Kogan Mobile, CMobile and Lebara.
To give you an idea of how much a plan on the Vodafone network currently costs, here are some of the most popular plans on the network this week: