Carriers will reportedly build next stage of their LTE networks together

UK mobile operators Three and EE are set to work together on the next part of their 4G LTE networks, according to a report from the Financial Times. The FT reports that the largest and smallest major UK carriers will share masts and backhaul transmission costs as part of a deal that'll see £1 billion ($1.63 billion) being jointly invested.

The agreement covers cost and infrastructure sharing, however there's "greater flexibility" for both EE and Three to control the speeds and coverage of their networks, according to the report. That means the entire 4G network isn't being shared between the two — "the antennas, spectrum and the core network will also be different for the two groups." The deal is also said to revise the conditions of Three's existing network-sharing agreement with EE.

The deal will allow both operators share the burden of building out further LTE coverage, but it could be beneficial to Three in particular as it looks to boost its 4G presence. Three currently in the process of rolling out 4G coverage to portions of its customer base, being the last major UK provider to do so. By comparison EE already has a fairly widespread 4G network, as do rivals Vodafone and O2, and the operator will be keen to maintain the early lead it established by launching LTE services first in late 2012.

Vodafone and O2 already have their own LTE network-sharing agreement in place as of mid-2013. That agreement appears to be more closely-knit than the deal between EE and Three, involving a common "grid" running behind both companies' 4G networks.

Source: Financial Times