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Virgin Media Takes More Control Of Its Mobile Network With New BT EE MVNO Deal

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Virgin Media will become a ‘thick’ MVNO in 2017 as company takes more control over its mobile service

Virgin Media has signed a new five year mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with rival BT to continue to use EE’s infrastructure to provide mobile services to customers. 

The Liberty Global-owned firm’s existing agreement was due to expire in 2018 but the new voice and data arrangement starts immediately and runs until 2021. 

As part of the arrangement, Virgin Media will gain much more control over its service and will become a ‘thick’ MVNO by the middle of this year.  

packetfront

Virgin Media MVNO 

This means that although EE will continue to provide the macro network of masts, Virgin Media will be responsible for billing, SIM cards and other network components. This is similar to Sky, which launched its mobile service late last year claiming it was the most advanced MVNO ever built

In short, this means Virgin Media will be able to rollout new services much more rapidly and avoid a repeat of its delayed launch of 4G, which only took place in late 2016.

Silicon understands this was one of the main motivations for renegotiating the deal and that current market conditions meant it made sense for talks to take place now rather than closer to the expiration date. 

It had been reported that Three was hoping to snatch the business from BT but lost out because of a perceived lack of spectrum and the cost of switching operator. Liberty Global has also been linked with the purchase of O2, owned be Telefonica. 

“This winning combination with EE will give Virgin Mobile even more control and firepower to deliver innovative services to the UK mobile market,” said Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Mobile. “Virgin Mobile customers want fast speeds, flexibility and plans packed full of data – we’re going to continue to deliver.” 

“This has proven a successful relationship for both parties for many years and, as we enter a period of further technological change in the mobile market, we are very pleased to renew and extend our 17 year old relationship,” added Gerry McQuade, BT’s Wholesale chief. “As the largest wholesale provider of telecommunications services in Europe, BT values the economy of scale that Virgin Media brings to our network.” 

The UK’s first MVNO launched in 1999 under the guise of Virgin Mobile and using what was then One2One’s network. It was then brought under the Virgin Media umbrella following the 2007 merger of NTL and Telewest and now has three million subscribers. 

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