Why O2 isn't willing to share

And whether the iPhone is making it happy or not…

And whether the iPhone is making it happy or not…

T-Mobile and 3 may have done it - and Orange and Vodafone may be talking about doing it - but O2 isn't planning on getting into bed with fellow operators to share network resources anytime soon.

Wireless from A to Z

Click on the links below to find out more…

A is for Antivirus
B is for Bluetooth
C is for The Cloud
D is for dotMobi
E is for Email
F is for FMC
G is for GPS
H is for HSDPA
I is for i-mode
J is for Japan Air
K is for Korea
L is for LBS
M is for M2M
N is for NFC
O is for Operating systems
P is for Pubs
Q is for QoS
R is for Roaming
S is for Satellite
T is for TV
U is for UMTS
V is for Virgin
W is for WiMax
X is for XDA
Y is for Yucca
Z is for Zigbee

Ben Dowd, head of business sales at O2 and recently appointed O2 UK board director, told silicon.com owning its own network is a unique selling point for the company.

Dowd said: "I think it's a great opportunity for O2 to shout about the fact that we own our own network. Because when you're a corporate customer and the network goes down I think it would be incredibly difficult to explain to a corporate where the problem was if that responsibility is being shared - so the buck stops with us if there are coverage issues."

The company doesn't buy the argument that network sharing will help operators reduce costs - despite some of its rivals clearly believing otherwise - and Dowd said there is no evidence to suggest any network sharing deals done by rivals will pose a threat because of the possibility of a bigger network coverage footprint.

He said: "It's hypothetical that if two networks come together and all of a sudden they've got more coverage what will the impact be?... Our strategy on networks has been very much to invest where there is customer demand rather than in remote locations. And we believe that we've achieved that."

The company plans to "invest heavily" in 2G - Dowd said it expects voice traffic to grow by between 30 and 40 per cent in the next couple of years. And its 3G network, which is approaching 80 per cent coverage, will be fully HSDPA-enabled by the end of the year.

"Data is the biggest opportunity," he added.

But despite the lucrative promise of data, O2 is not getting overexcited and has no desire to get ahead of the market. Its historical position has almost never been to lead on technology rollouts, according to Dowd - a factor he said is not about to change.

He said: "We won't be investing in a network for something that will happen three or four years from now - it'll be far more near-term and it'll be based on customer insight - rather than what we think will happen."

On the question of when - or if - O2 will offer a business tariff for the iPhone, Dowd said it is "working with Apple on that" - adding he is "hopeful" such tariffs will arrive "sometime in 2008".

He said the iPhone has caught the eye of a number of corporates - but characterised this interest as "individuals in corporate organisations" rather than companies themselves seeking to deploy their email applications on iPhones.

He said: "There is interest but I think the interest is more as a consumer within the corporate space. Every corporate is a customer in their spare time and the consumer side of that corporate absolutely is interested in the iPhone."

He added: "The key thing is it's not a business device right now - it doesn't give you the capability that BlackBerry can - it doesn't give the corporate email for it to be a robust proposition in the corporate space. That is something we will work with Apple on to drive out what the best solution is."

Dowd would not be drawn on the question of iPhone sales - which have been rumoured to be less mighty than it had hoped. O2 also recently tinkered with its existing pricing structure, offering better value for money for iPhone customers - and suggesting it might be happy to bump a few more zeros on the end of its iPhone sales figures.

But Dowd said O2 is "happy" with the iPhone sales numbers and added it is "still quite early days" for the device in the UK.

He said: "I think we're very happy with it."