Vodafone and 02-owner Telefonica have announced plans to create one shared grid in the UK.
The move is designed to improve existing coverage and to speed up the roll-out of superfast 4G services.
The companies say it will mean 4G mobile services, which allow users to download music and videos to their phones at high speed, can be delivered by 2015.
That is two years ahead of regulator Ofcom’s requirement of 98% coverage by 2017.
Vodafone and 02-owner Telefonica have announced plans to create one shared grid in the UK
The two firms will continue to compete but will pool their network infrastructure.
“Exceptional customer demand for the mobile internet has challenged the mobile industry to consider innovative solutions to building a nationwide network that will be fit for our customers in the future and support the products and services that will truly make Britain digital,” said Ronan Dunne, chief executive of Telefonica UK.
Guy Laurence, Vodafone UK chief executive, said: “This partnership will close the digital divide for millions of people across the country and power the next phase of the smartphone revolution.”
The deal will help keep costs down for the operators at a time when consumer spending in Europe is weak. Telefonica in particular has been under pressure to cut its debt and is currently disposing assets.
Apple has decided to stop using the phrase 4G in adverts for its latest iPad.
The description proved controversial because 4G is not widely available in the UK and the iPad will not work with it when it is.
The UK’s advertising watchdog and others around the world investigated Apple over use of the 4G phrase.
Apple said the confusion arose because of the ways operators refer to different high-speed mobile technologies.
When the newest version of the iPad was launched in March, adverts for the device claimed it would work with 4G, meaning fourth generation, mobile technology. The 4G in question was a technology known as Long Term Evolution (LTE) that was starting to appear in the US.
The UK's advertising watchdog and others around the world investigated Apple over use of the 4G phrase
However, when LTE arrives in Britain, the rest of Europe and many other nations, it will use different frequencies to those in the US meaning the iPad will not be able to use 4G everywhere.
The disparity led to many complaints. In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated and won assurances from Apple that its advertising would change.
A spokesman for the ASA said it had started a second investigation after consumers told it that the 4G phrase was still being used to describe the iPad’s capabilities.
The ASA had been “working closely” with Apple to amend the way the iPad is advertised, said the spokesman, adding that the consumer electronics firm had been very co-operative during the investigation.
“We will be checking the amendments to ensure they adhere to the Advertising Code,” he said.
Apple said the confusion had arisen because of the different high-speed mobile technologies dubbed 4G by operators and carriers.
Apple would change its terminology to remove this confusion, it said.
“Carriers do not all refer to their high speed networks with the same terminology, therefore we’ve decided to use ‘wi-fi + cellular’ as a simple term which describes all the high speed networks supported by the new iPad,” Apple said in a statement.
“The advanced wireless features of the new iPad have not changed,” it added.