Mobile workers across the UK could benefit from improved coverage after Everything Everywhere confirmed that the merger of Orange and T-Mobile's mobile networks has gone live.
The company estimates that some 27 million customers could see improved services from the combination of the two networks. Pay-as-you-go, monthly and business customers can all sign up to the new network on their current operator's web site.
A spokesperson for Everything Everywhere said that the company has no short-term targets for how many people will take advantage of the offer, and has no plans to make the capability automatic, instead proceeding with the opt-in approach for the time being.
The spokesperson added that, while both networks cover 99 per cent of the population, some customers may not always receive full coverage owing to the position of the masts, so this ability to switch will offer an improved service.
"How often this will happen will depend on the local network coverage, so some customers may find they are using the other network regularly, while others may rarely leave their home network," the spokesperson said.
However, Steven Hartley, a principal analyst from Ovum, said he thought it was unlikely customers would benefit from the merger of the networks, and said the main beneficiaries would be Orange and T-Mobile.
"Both firms will be able to reduce on costs due to the merger, such as removing cell towers and other infrastructure which are duplicated, helping them save costs which theoretically they could pass on to customers in the long run, " he said.
"For the vast majority of customers network coverage is not a problem although there will be a few coverage not-spots on either network where this could help to some degree."
When asked about the company's plans for the removing duplicated network infrastructure a spokesperson confirmed this was a primary reason for the joining of the two networks.
"Giving our customers access to two networks does create possibilities around removing overlapping masts. There's a financial benefit and it also helps to reduce our impact on the environment too," they said.
Everything Everywhere has also said it is planning more improvements to the network in 2011, including automatically switching to the network with the strongest signal mid-call and enhancing data and internet coverage for mobile internet browsing.
Hartley argued, though, that claims about network quality are made by all the big operators and that it is impossible for customers to really know who has the best coverage, adding it is a potential area for Ofcom to independently research.
Customers wanting to sign up to the merged network should go to www.t-mobile.co.uk/share or www.orange.co.uk/share depending on current provider and register their SIM.
The firm announced around a week ago that it will lay off some 1,200 staff in roles that were duplicated after the merger.
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