Virgin Media has confirmed that it is in talks with EE to launch 4G services on its newly rolled out long term evolution (LTE) networks.
The news comes as the government’s 4G peace talks with the UK’s other mobile operators are ‘still in the balance’, according to the Financial Times.
News of Ofcom’s decision to approve EE’s request to use its existing 1800MHz spectrum for next generation 4G services, which will launch this year, several months ahead of its competitors, has created much turmoil in the telecoms industry.
EE is Everything Everywhere’s newly launched 4G brand.
Three, O2 and Vodafone are having to wait for Ofcom’s 4G spectrum auction to roll out services, which is due to begin at the end of this year, but have been embroiled in legal disputes over the country’s competitive landscape once the spectrum has been allocated.
EE’s rivals are concerned that if EE is the only operator on the market to be selling 4G services it will attract a lot of their customers, who could then be tied into contracts for 24 months.
The news of EE’s 4G network has even led to discussions between O2 and Ofcom about bringing the 4G spectrum auction forward, which will see 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrum allocated.
Virgin Media confirmed to Computerworld UK that it is in discussions with EE about launching 4G services on its (LTE) network when it is launched. A spokesperson added: “Launching 4G services this year promises to bring significant benefits to UK consumers as people begin to make the most of forthcoming superfast mobile connections.”
Virgin Media already offers its current mobile services by piggy-backing on EE’s current network.
Meanwhile, government officials have been holding talks with mobile operators in a bid to resolve the ongoing legal disputes, but with just a week to go before they end, no resolution has yet been made.
To confuse matters further, EE has agreed to sell 2X15MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to Three, which was agreed as part of European competition rules when Orange and T-Mobile formed to become the single Everything Everywhere brand.
Although it hasn’t been confirmed that Three intends to use this spectrum for 4G services, it is a possibility that is likely to further anger Vodafone and O2.
EE's 4G network will become available to consumers and businesses in London, Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham in the coming weeks, and is expected to launch in 12 more cities – Edinburgh, Belfast, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton – by Christmas.
Further towns, cities and rural areas will follow rapidly, with 2013 population coverage to reach 70 percent, and 98 percent covered by 2014.