Virgin Media to Hop Aboard EE’s 4G Train

Virgin Media, an MVNO that piggybacks onto Orange’s network, is reported to be in talks with EE, with a view to signing a deal to also offer a 4G LTE service to its subscribers.

EE, the recently revealed new name of Everything Everywhere, is all set to launch the UK’s first 4G LTE network very soon, after gaining permission from Ofcom to re-farm its 1800MHz spectrum expressly for that purpose.

If a deal is signed, Virgin probably won’t be able to start selling 4G until next year, as EE will no doubt want to make the most of its exclusivity for as long as possible; but it makes sense to expand it to existing partners in the near future, if only in an effort to increase awareness.

It’s not all smooth sailing for EE though, as its competitors are still considering legal action against the network. To try and calm everyone down, Ofcom has said that there’s nothing stopping other networks from re-farming spare spectrum too. While others don’t have the same amount of the 1800MHz spectrum as EE, they do have plenty of 900MHz.

Ofcom has already agreed for this to be re-used for 3G, and it would only be a small amendment to allow 4G use too. The 900MHz spectrum isn’t quite as good as other bandwidth though, and is said to be 40% weaker than EE’s 1800MHz choice.

While all this goes on, Ofcom, the government and networks are still battling it out over next year’s 4G spectrum auctions. A report in the Financial Times says progress is being made to bring the auction date forward, but with no resolution over the matter of EE, any subsequent legal action could once more delay the sale.

4G is said to now be Ofcom’s “highest priority”, as the UK is in danger of falling well behind the US and other parts of Europe when it comes to a high speed mobile data network.

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