Virgin Media denies interest in LTE spectrum, femtocells

UK cable operator Virgin Media has denied newspaper reports that it is planning to deploy LTE femtocells and bid for appropriate spectrum.

Media reports indicated that the company was about to offer its cable customers LTE femtocells to enable them to effectively bypass overcrowded 3G data networks. The Guardian newspaper added that Virgin Media was hoping to bid for LTE spectrum next year alongside the major mobile and fixed-line operators, including its main rival BT.

However, Virgin Media has countered these suggestions, and blames them on inaccurate information when a company executive had been just speculating about the future opportunities and issues in managing mobile data. Virgin Media has confirmed to eWeek that it recognises the exponential growth in mobile data and that the UK is on the tipping point of LTE--driven by the forthcoming auction and the growing availability of LTE devices.

Of note, the company has previously suggested that LTE femtocells could theoretically offload mobile traffic onto its fibre-based core network. It has also proposed the notion that mobile data is no longer the reserve of mobile operators, and that Virgin Media could be in an excellent position to exploit new technologies.

"In order to maximise the value of what is limited spectrum, short range low powered frequencies could be used to ensure localised areas of high demand are satisfied," said a company spokesman. "These frequencies could be shared by companies beyond just the mobile network operators so that consumers will benefit most from greater innovation and a better quality wireless Internet experience."

However, while Virgin Media acknowledged there was a role in the UK market for an operator such as this--offloading mobile data onto its fibre network--it was not at this point yet. Virgin Media already operates as an MVNO renting capacity from T-Mobile UK and Orange UK.

For more:
- see this eWeek article
- see this Guardian article

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