Virgin Media has signed a five-year deal that will see Vodafone take the place of BT as its network provider, leading to fresh hopes its customers could get access to 5G sooner rather than later.
So what exactly does that mean for consumers? Currently, Virgin has a deal with BT. Virgin sell you your phone and usage deal, but ultimately the network that allows that phone to function is BT’s. The deal with BT comes to an end in 2021 and, at that point, this new deal with Vodafone will take effect.
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In practice, this switch means you’ll be more likely to be able to get 5G as a Virgin Media customer. Vodafone has 5G availability in 32 towns and cities, including Glasgow, Liverpool, London and many more. Comparatively, BT’s 5G network is currently available in 20.
Vodafone’s UK CEO, Nick Jeffery, was equally enthusiastic about the deal. He said:
“This is an exciting deal between two great British brands… 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.”
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Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO added:
“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… This agreement with Vodafone will bring a host of fantastic benefits and experiences to our customers, including 5G services in the near future.”
It might be over stretching the mark a little to promise “a whole new world of opportunity” (Aladdin anyone?) but this could have practical applications for Virgin customers. Especially if you’re in one of the regions that is covered by their 5G network and not BTs. However, it depends how their networks develop and which company is on top when it comes to 2021 and the end of the current deal.
5G provision has been a key competitive battleground for mobile network providers. This will be a shot in the arm for Vodafone, who are reaping the rewards of moving fast to build their 5G coverage.