Vodafone and Orange have today announced a landmark, but non-binding, agreement that could mean that 3G and even higher-speed networks are rolled out more quickly.

The companies intend to share their Radio Access Networks, or RANs, which includes masts, antennaes, sites, and power supplies, amongst other elements.

By combining the two RANs, the long-term intention is to reduce the total number of masts needed in the future to enable customers to use their mobile devices.

The combined RANs would therefore have a smaller environmental footprint.

The two companies are very careful to emphasise that the two will continue to operate totally independently and remain competitors in the mobile wholesale and retail markets.

Sharing will also mean better coverage for both networks' customers, as the one may have coverage in areas where the other does not.

"This proposal is industry leading and will enable the two companies to remain vigorously competitive against each other and the market, while realising the proven benefits of network sharing, notably faster roll out of high speed mobile services in the future and the earlier introduction of innovative products", explained Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone.