Customers of Everything Everywhere and Three could benefit from improved mobile broadband after Virgin Media Business announced a £100m-plus contract to provide enhanced backhaul for the firms' mobile networks.
The deal, signed with the Mobile Broadband Network consortium formed by Everything Everywhere and Three, will see the deployment of Virgin's Sync-E product across the UK to offer backhaul speeds of 1Gbit/s to ease data congestion.
The rollout will provide greater capacity in high-density areas to ensure that as much spectrum as possible is available to customers accessing content such as web sites, music, applications and video.
George Wareing, head of mobile and broadcast for wholesale markets at Virgin Media Business, told V3 that the move will help Everything Everywhere and Three to move data off their mobile networks and improve the user experience.
"The challenge in the UK is that smartphones and other mobile devices are causing a huge demand for mobile data, but there's only a limited amount of capacity in the airwaves that users can access," he said.
"By rolling out fibre access into some 1,000 cell sites across the UK, we will be able to provide faster backhaul and give smartphone and tablet users a better mobile broadband experience."
Wareing added that Virgin expects some of the first cell sites to come online by the end of 2011, but that the entire rollout will take until 2014 and may include rural areas.
"The rollout is future proofed to work with future mobile technologies like 4G and LTE so that, as the spectrum in use by mobile customers grows, we will be able to accommodate that," he explained.
"The demand in rural areas for increased backhaul is not so great, but in time it may reach these regions. To begin with we will focus on major cities where population density has the most impact on data speeds."
The deal represents an ongoing push by Virgin Media Business to explore new revenue opportunities and increase its position in the market in competition with BT.
Jeremy Green, practice leader in telecoms strategy at Ovum, told V3 that the move underlines operator strategies to improve backhaul and provide benefits for customers.
"Backhaul is part of the plumbing of networks so it's important for firms to have good systems in place as limitations on the backhaul can affect the experience of those accessing data networks," he said.
"Ensuring the network is configurable for future technologies is a sensible move as operators are facing an increasingly tough time as operating costs are rising but revenues are not, so anywhere they can cut costs is a good idea."