T-Mobile, Orange and Three will get faster mobile broadband, thanks to a network deal to use Virgin’s fibre
Virgin Media Business is providing fibre data connections to the mobile networks Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange) and Three in a £100 million eight year contract.
The deal is Virgin‘s first step into mobile backhaul, and makes use of its fibre network to provide the three operators with additional data capacity for their mobile users. Virgin has signed a contract with Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL), the joint venture which provides connectivity for its cellular network.
A big flea bite on BT’s business
“We’ve been working with mobile operators in their core networks, but this is the first big thing we’ve won in backhaul,” said George Wareing, head of Virgin Media Business’s wholesale markets for mobile network.
The service provided by Virgin will use Synchronous Ethernet (Sync-E), an IEEE standard which builds synchronisation into an Ethernet-based service, so it can handle features like handing off phone calls between different base stations. Virgin is one of the first providers to offer Sync-E, said Wareing.
Virgin Media Business will build 14 regional aggregation networks across the UK running at 1Gbps, which should improve the phone networks’ 3G performance, as well as preparing them for the higher data demands of 4G services based on the LTE standard.
Mobile network operators have been increasingly complaining of overload from the high data demands of their users. Those demands are set to increase, when operators roll out 4G services. The regulator Ofcom is currently gearing up to auction off the 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz high-speed data spectrum in the first quarter of 2012, which it hopes will provide better coverage and faster data rates for mobile users – but this will only increase the demand for backhaul from cell towers to the Internet. Data demands are predicted to grow by 33 times in the next ten years.
“We have an advantage from our large consumer broadband network,” said Wareing. “We are used to building networks dimensioned for carrying data, as opposed to voice.” As the only company apart from BT to have a significant fibre network, he expects to give BT a significant fight – this deal gets Virgin into the backhaul game with several thousand cell sites, he pointed out: “that competition will be good for consumers.”