Telefonica UK picks Virgin for LTE backhaul

Telefonica UK has signed a 10-year agreement to use the high-speed fibre network of Virgin Media Business to backhaul traffic for its 3G and future LTE network.

Under the terms of the deal, Virgin Media Business said it will connect O2 base stations to its fibre network via a high-capacity Ethernet service called Sync-E in order to provide better support for heavy data traffic on O2's network.

Robust backhaul will be particularly important for the operator's LTE network, with the launch of commercial services scheduled for later this summer. The O2 3G network experienced some serious network outages last year, and the angry response from users indicated that consumers are not prepared to tolerate poor network service. LTE networks will come under even more pressure to demonstrate they are worth the upgrade from 3G.

"Over the past five years we've seen huge growth in demand for mobile data as the number of consumers using smartphones and tablets has increased," said Adrian Di Meo, chief technology officer at Telefonica UK. "With our 4G network launching this summer, data growth will only continue to rise and this new fibre agreement with Virgin Media Business will give us the rock solid foundation we need and help us deliver a great network experience for our customers."

Virgin Media Business said it now has mobile backhaul contracts with all four of the UK's major mobile network operators – the other three being Vodafone UK, EE and 3 UK.

"It's a sign that the backhaul market is moving extremely quickly," said George Wareing, director of mobile and broadcast, Virgin Media Business. "This approach [with Sync-E technology) means we're able to arm their networks with the extra capacity needed to make sure that customers don't experience slow speeds because of data bottlenecks, and that they're prepared for the future of 4G services and beyond."

EE is currently the only UK operator to offer commercial LTE services under the 4GEE plans, but its three rivals are set to follow this year. Ofcom also recently said it had decided in favour of allowing mobile users to refarm 2G and 3G spectrum for LTE services.

For more:
- see this Virgin Business Media release

Related Articles:
Ofcom approves spectrum refarming for LTE services
3 UK mulls pooling 800 MHz spectrum with EE, may speed up LTE launch
Report: UK operators will need to trade LTE spectrum to set mobile strategies
Analysts: UK operators underpaid for LTE spectrum, for a variety of reasons
UK LTE spectrum auction draws £2.34B, below government expectations
Analyst: Vodafone, O2 have most to lose in UK LTE spectrum auction
EE slashes LTE pricing as UK spectrum auction gets underway
Report: UK LTE adoption dependent on price and performance