MOBILE VIRTUAL NETWORK OPERATOR (MVNO) Virgin Mobile has kicked BT to the curb and signed a five-year agreement with rival Vodafone.
The deal, which follows speculation that Virgin was on the hunt for a new network partner due to concerns over BT's 2015 mega-merger with EE, will see Vodafone host Virgin Mobile services, including 5G, from late-2021. However, Virgin says it intends to launch its new 5G services "in the near future", suggesting these will debut ahead of the transition date.
The deal also marks the dramatic end of Virgin's 20-year relationship with BT-owned EE; BT's shares fell 4.7 per cent following the news that it was losing the contract.
"The successful relationship between BT and Virgin Media spans nearly 20 years and they remain a highly valued customer," a BT spokesperson sobbed.
Virgin Mobile is promising that as a "full MVNO", it will retain full control over the products and services it offers, which means existing customers will not need to change their SIM cards as part of this agreement.
Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, remarked: "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, added: "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." µ
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