Virgin ditches UK LTE ambitions, focuses on building wholesale Wi-Fi network

Virgin Media is discarding plans to bid for UK LTE spectrum, and has turned its attention to building a nationwide Wi-Fi and small cell network that will be marketed to UK operators on a wholesale basis.

The company says it's now planning to deploy Wi-Fi and small cell networks in major city centres across the UK following the successful launch of Wi-Fi in 70 London Underground stations prior to the 2012 Olympics and a small cell trial on London's Oxford Street earlier this year, according to Mobile Today.

Of note, Virgin Media's director of mobile, Jamie Heywood, said that the company's decision not to become involved with the LTE licence auction had been influenced Ofcom's decision to approve EE's plans to launch LTE later this year on its 1800 MHz spectrum, ahead of its major rivals. Virgin operates as an MVNO of EE. "We don't see any benefit to us bidding for LTE spectrum given what we are," he said.

Heywood said that an LTE-enabled small cell network would be especially useful in providing in-depth coverage to the urban environment where levels of data usage are high. Heywood confirmed that the company is already talking with cities outside London about Virgin Media's Wi-Fi and small cell proposals.

While the company's existing London-based Wi-Fi service is currently limited to Virgin subscribers, Heywood told Mobile Today that he is looking to negotiate wholesale arrangements with existing operators as the Virgin Media network is deployed. This could also include the company selling access to its small cell network to operators looking to boost their coverage in densely populated urban areas.

Separately, the company said it will start charging its own customers for Wi-Fi access on the London Underground. The service, which has been operational since June and free to Virgin subscribers, will cost customers next month, according to ZDNet. Virgin declined to say what it will charge customers for the pay-as-you-go service.

For more:
- see this Mobile Today article
- see this City AM article
- see this ZDNet article

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