Vodafone and Hutchison could merge telecoms infrastructure in Ireland

Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa could be on the verge of merging their Irish telecoms infrastructure in a bid to cut operating costs.

The Financial Times reports the companies are in advanced discussions for Hutchison, which operates the Three mobile brand in Ireland, to integrate with Vodafone through a shared grid.

The deal would see a joint venture structure in place that would give the companies ownership of telecoms hardware, but still maintain separate spectrum. It is estimated the partnership could save the companies over £200 million over five years.

Any possible tie up would follow a similar agreement struck by Vodafone and Telefónica in the UK to share 18,500 network sites. Analysts claim there could be similar agreements in the market to share costs of physical infrastructure needed for mobile services.

There is an increasing trend in the market in mobile operators to merge large infrastructure and compete more aggressively on a retail level in light of difficult economic conditions.

Vodafone and Hutchison both declined to comment on the deal.