Lars R. Andersen
Freelance CIO/CTO • Management consultant • Project manager • IT architect
Please note that the information here contains my personal viewpoints and not those of any present or previous employer
Mobile Network Sharing or RAN sharing
RAN sharing has, in the right circumstances, the option of providing operational efficiency gains that are impossible to achieve by other means within the technology space for a mobile operator. The gains are a combination of lower cost and improved network quality.
Sharing the network comes at a cost: the long term binding and loss of full control. This must be well understood and accepted as well as balanced against the gains. Entering into RAN sharing agreements has the complexity of M&A transactions with regulatory complexity put on top. Therefore, it is not straightforward to move from interest to agreement.
From experience of a number of network sharing engagements, I have formulated an approach to move from interest to contract. An overview is shown on this web page and further details can be found in the white paper I have written. I would very much appreciate your view on it, but that is entirely voluntary.
While many approaches are possible, a structured process that progresses towards greater and greater detail, addressing the key issues first, will give the best assurance of the right result.
Each phase has a distinct purpose and target. In the first phases, the target consists of levels of progress of agreement, whereas in the latter phases the targets are more tangible changes in the network.
Strategy of sharing and own business case.In this phase, the network sharing is subject to initial evaluation. It includes building an initial business case to understand the gains and evaluating the competitors to see if any of them are viable as long-term strategic partners.
Partnering and joint BC. Assuming the initial evaluation is positive, discussions should take place with the other operators to understand the interest. Once the discussion focuses down to a single partner, a LOI should be signed ensuring confidentiality, exclusivity etc.
Framework agreement and solution description. The next step is to ensure that the potential partners agree on the key terms. To this end a framework agreement with term sheet annexes describing the key terms can be used. It can be developed in a small group, preferably 20 individuals or fewer, and will permit clarification of whether agreement is possible. The signature of the framework agreement will also permit communication to stakeholders, including stock market if relevant.
The solution description is a necessary part of the framework agreement as it describes what the shared RAN will look like initially and in the near future.
Partnership agreement and RAN strategy. From the term sheets, a full legal agreement is developed. A prerequisite is to develop the RAN strategy and business case further. This phase concludes with closing or executing the transaction.
Implementation. In this phase the actual implementation of the RAN sharing is done. In addition to the physical consolidation, there is quite a lot of preparation, i.e. IOT and NNI connections, as well as implementation of the agreement in process integration, financial settlement, KPI reporting etc. The timeline varies significantly, depending upon the maturity of thinking, regulatory environment, complexity of consolidation and desired rollout. Unless there are special circumstances, three to five years from initiation of discussions must be expected as a realistic timeline.
Operations. Following the implementation, the network needs to be maintained, developed etc.
Experience and offeringsHaving worked near full time for almost six years through all the phases and on a number of cases, I can provide extensive experience in what works and what does not. More specifically for each phase, potential contribution could be:
See further details in the white paper