Virgin Mobile will operate on Vodafone’s network infrastructure from late 2021, after twenty years of partnering with EE (BT).
Virgin Mobile has reached a new five-year deal with Vodafone, to begin when its partnership with EE lapses in two years. However, Virgin has suggested it will launch new 5G products with Vodafone “in the near future.”
Virgin Mobile was a pioneer of the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model, leasing capacity and infrastructure to offers its services. It currently has three million subscribers and is the UK’s sixth largest mobile provider and second larger MVNO, after Tesco Mobile.
Virgin Mobile operates as a “deep MVNO,” meaning it controls billing, SIM cards and the products and services it offers. This means customers won’t have to swap SIM cards when the handover to Vodafone takes place in late 2021.
Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, said: “This agreement with Vodafone will bring a host of fantastic benefits and experiences to our customers, including 5G services in the near future.
“Twenty years ago Virgin Mobile became the world’s first virtual operator and this new agreement builds on that heritage. It will open up a whole new world of opportunity for Virgin Media as we focus on becoming the most recommended brand for customers and bring our mobile and broadband connectivity closer together in one package for one price.”
Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, said: “We are delighted that Virgin has recognised the huge investments we’ve made, and continue to make, in building the UK’s best mobile network and our role in challenging the market with new commercial services. As a result, they have chosen us to work with them in the next phase of their development.
“This is an exciting deal between two great British brands. We are combining our strong heritage in innovation to create a world without limits for our customers through unlimited data offers and 5G.”
The Virgin Mobile contract was apparently worth £200 million to BT and news of the departure sent share prices for the telecoms giant falling 4.6%.
A spokesperson for BT said: “The successful relationship between BT and Virgin Media spans nearly 20 years and they remain a highly valued customer. We will continue to provide a full spectrum of mobile services to Virgin Media and support Virgin Mobile customers under our existing MVNO agreement, until they transition in 2022.”