The UK’s second largest mobile phone retailer, Phones4U, has announced it will become a mobile virtual network operator in March. The company will launch LIFE Mobile, an MVNO which will share EE’s network, and although initially it will only offer 2G and 3G connections, a 4G option will be made available before the end of the year.
EE became the first network in the UK to offer a high-speed 4G service last year, having exploited its extensive reserves of the 1800MHz spectrum for its use, while other UK networks were forced to wait for the official 4G spectrum auctions. It’s LIFE Mobile’s promise of a 4G option to come which makes it unusual, and it appears to be the first MVNO to confirm it’ll offer one.
It almost certainly won’t be the last though, as EE is home to another 24 virtual networks, including Virgin Mobile. Virgin has reportedly been in talks with EE to provide a 4G connection to its customers this year, however nothing has materialized since this news appeared in September last year.
According to Phones4U, LIFE Mobile will provide, “A wide range of great value tariffs and services that include data packages as standard,” and in a conversation with the Financial Times, CEO Tim Whiting said it would differentiate itself from the wealth of other MVNOs by, “appealing to the tech savvy customer who wants the latest handset.” Unfortunately, no tariff prices have been confirmed yet.
Phones4U has a very strong retail presence, with 680 stores around the country, all offering connections to the major UK networks. Provided it doesn’t price itself out of the market, and offers simple to understand tariff options, LIFE Mobile could be a success. As for 4G, it needs to arrive sooner rather than later, but EE is unlikely to give up its exclusivity just yet.