LONDON (Reuters) – Virgin Media is ditching BT’s <BT.L> mobile network for rival Vodafone <VOD.L> from late 2021, saying the five-year deal announced on Wednesday would bring innovative new services such as 5G to more than 3 million customers.
The British cable TV and broadband company, owned by U.S. group Liberty Global <LBTYA.O>, pioneered the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) model, when a company offers own-branded mobile services on an established partner’s network.
Vodafone will supply wholesale mobile services including voice and data to the Virgin Mobile and Virgin Media Business customers under the deal, which runs until 2026.
Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, said the partnership would deliver a host of benefits to customers, including 5G services in the near future, and bring mobile and broadband connectivity closer together in one package for one price.
“Twenty years ago Virgin Mobile became the world’s first virtual operator and this new agreement builds on that heritage,” he said.
Vodafone’s UK chief executive Nick Jeffery said Virgin had recognised the huge investments it had made, and continued to make, in building its mobile network.
The deal is a new departure for Vodafone in its home market after it previously largely avoided major MVNO partnerships unlike rivals such as BT’s EE and Telefonica’s <TEF.MC> O2.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle, editing by Louise Heavens)