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BT Take Virgin Media O2 to Court Over UK Mobile Migrations

Wednesday, Aug 24th, 2022 (7:50 am) - Score 26,216
virgin_mobile_sim_swap

BT has launched a High Court case against Virgin Media (VMO2), which it accuses of having migrated customers away from their EE based Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) platform (Virgin Mobile) before an agreement had been concluded. The broadband ISP and mobile giant is reportedly seeking £24.6m in compensation.

Just for context. At the end of 2019 Virgin Media signed a 5-year deal with Vodafone to run their MVNO platform, which effectively ended their long-running supplier deal with EE (here). Under the plan, Virgin Mobile’s services – back then reflecting c.3 million customers – would start to transition to Vodafone’s platform from the end of 2021, although some 5G (mobile broadband) services were introduced before that.

Since then, both Virgin Media and O2 have merged into VMO2, with the new joint company having already given Vodafone notice to cancel the new MVNO agreement – naturally, they’d now want to be able to fully harness O2’s platform. But that’s another story and we’re today focused on the prior MVNO agreement to use EE’s national mobile network.

According to Broadband TV News, BT is accusing VMO2 of having breached the terms of their MVNO agreement by allowing non-5G customers (i.e. 4G and older users) to be migrated away from EE’s network and on to O2 and Vodafone based platforms before its contract had formally expired. BT says it warned Virgin about this on multiple occasions, but the operator allegedly refused to carry out any checks.

A BT Spokesperson said:

“BT is taking legal action against Virgin Media with respect to a breach of an MVNO agreement Virgin Media had with EE. It would be inappropriate to comment further due to the ongoing legal proceedings.”

However, VMO2 contends that they’ve “always complied with the terms of our former mobile agreement with BT“, with the operator planning to “robustly defend” themselves. The case could have implications for other MVNO agreements in the future, where operators might sometimes use different methods to start migrating users ahead of time and without prior agreement.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
24 Responses
  1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    BT management desperate for their salary bonus cash pool. 🙂

    If VM had honoured the length of their contract and paid their dues, surely it’s up to them when they migrate customers off. They can migrate in a big batch on the last day of the agreement!

    EE/BT were the ones that didnt want MVNO operators other than their own subsidiaries from what I read and wouldn’t give Virgin customers 5G access so VM went to Vodafone.

    1. Avatar photo Richardr says:

      Presumably BT would get a healthy share of any call / data charges made, and so losing customers early would lose them that part of the contract.

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      Depends what is in the contract between the parties.

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      EE has several MVNOs that are not owned by BT Group, some of whom openly advertise that they have 5G access. Why would they refuse to take on new business? Not everyone wants to pay the EE premium and if they can still get some money from an MVNO it’s still win-win

      If anything it’s BT Group putting pointless restrictions on itself – BT Mobile has variable access to 5G depending on what plan you have, and Plusnet doesn’t have 5G, nor wifi/4G calling. Only EE has eSIM.

  2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    That should have read CAN’T migrate in a big batch. Typo…

  3. Avatar photo Martin says:

    I am tending to side with BT here as Virgin are in material breach of contract. I would also think Vodafone would equally succeed in taking Virgin to court over the same.

    It is concerning Virgin Mobile customers are going to get a nasty surprise being ported to the UK’s most underinvested and under-capacity network O2UK (VMO2). It barely works.

    O2 is already struggling and they are porting 3 Million+ more subs to it? Surely everyone at VMO2 already knows this is an appalling business decision until it provides some serious network investment first?

    O2 appears to have the least 5G progress of them all, so doing this for “customers benefit” seems laughable at best.

    1. Avatar photo phoenixw says:

      I’ve also thought the same. I left O2 early last year because I was fed up of having my phone show it had a full 4G signal wherever I went, but it wouldn’t be functional in any major city or tourist destination. Not even good enough for checking email! Adding millions of extra users to their massively oversold network is a terrible decision.

    2. Avatar photo Fastlane256 says:

      At least you got signal. I was told I would have great service. Turns out the 3 nearest transmitters were 2g/3G only, from 2009 but they haven’t upgraded since. They were also being fed by a copper backhall. Dispite over 20,000 connected to those transmitters, they didn’t see it fit to upgrade. I eventually got them to upgrade it 8 months in so I then had 4g but the data was super slow and every week the mast would be turned off for “maintance”. Awful.

    3. Avatar photo Matt says:

      “I am tending to side with BT here as Virgin are in material breach of contract”

      Having been one of the customers thrown over. I’d agree. The whole thing felt rushed/bodged to get off of EE as fast as possible IMO. Went from decent-ish service on EE (4G only) to almost none-existent 4G. Then an “upgrade to 5G” type text telling me I’d be getting 5G service – where no 5G masts were present for any provider. Ended up migrating mobile away ~2 months later, back to BT and that had 5G available.

      I’m assuming they looked at 5G rollout, saw EE were coming and tried to bin as many customers onto Voda as possible, under the guise of an “upgrade”.

      I had no voicemail working post migration – Speaking to BT at the time they had mentioned they’d been getting lots of Virgin-to-BT migrated customers calling to complain about this, and it took them a few days to get corrected. (ontop of some weirdly written / bad comms from Virgin is what makes me feel like this was rushed)

    4. Avatar photo Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

      I was migrated to O2 network earlier this year, as an Oomph customer. Coverage in London’s Zone 4 suburbia was flaky at best. Finally got back on EE with BT and it’s working fine… once I scrounged up the right APN. The SIM had Asda, T-Mobile, EE… every APN *but* btmobile.bt.com (bt/bt) which I needed for my Redmi Note 6 Pro to access the net. There’s always something!

    5. Avatar photo J b says:

      Interesting thoughts, however bt mobile back in the 1980s was the only mobile phone service to start with, they then had issues with monopolies committee, and had been forced to sell part of one of its businesses, the home phone or mobile, so they sold part of bt mobile, it then became bt cellnet, over time bt decided to sell the rest of its mobile network to cellnet, this was then sold again to Telefonica, it eventually became o2, and more recently virgin o2, I feel this is bitter regret for selling up in the first place, I don’t believe that virgin would have broken the rules laid out in the terms originally.
      It’s a bit similar to apple taking all the other manufacturers to court to slow down the development of mobiles so they could catch up, after all samsung made most of the parts used in iPhone, including the screens, and companies like HTC, and Huawei came out with so many innovative ideas, and implemented them in their phones, as if like magic apple would copy it and then claim it was their tech, it is just bitterness because another company is successful.
      I will add I have used every single network provider in the UK, and I have to say there are very few places I can not use o2, but ee is by far the worst in rural areas, I have been to some very remote areas and still been able to make and receive calls, and use mobile data.
      Ee has some lovely adverts, it’s a shame it does not live up to the description, and it certainly is not everything everywhere, it is more like only in town’s, and built up areas.
      There will always be people jumping on a band wagon, right or wrong , but sour grapes from bt ee does not deserve backing up.

    6. Avatar photo Andrew Little says:

      What absolute nonsense. Maybe check your facts first?

  4. Avatar photo Sim one says:

    Another lawsuit/complaint from BT/EE.. are they good at anything other than complaining about their competition

    However contracts should be honoured so up to the courts to decide I guess

  5. Avatar photo Mark says:

    So Virgin are gonna force everyone to use the o2 network??? Screw that! I’ve tried o2, Sky and Tesco and they’ve all been diabolical! I used to think the 2Mb I got on Three’s 4G was slow and would advise everyone to stay away from Three, but that was ultrafast compared to when I was on o2! Literally stood right under a mast (as shown on their coverage checker) and was getting 0.01Mb download on 4G!

  6. Avatar photo angry man says:

    It’s like squabbling teenagers – and the customer picks up the bill through price hikes – stop it children!

    1. Avatar photo Openreach sucks says:

      you beat me to it. I was just about to say the same. It’s like BT/Openreach are the bullies, but then when someone else comes along who can give them a run for their money they scream waaah im telling the teacher.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      for “screaming” read “thinks they are entitled to compensation due to the way VMO2 handled the switchover”.

      VMO2 would not waste time in doing the same for one of their MVNO customers, but it’s amusing to see the BT haters complain.

  7. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    O2 is bad in lots of places I agree, but in my own location I get 50mbps which is an improvement as initially on 4G I was getting the same as 3 and Vodafone around 8mbps till they did mast/backhaul work.

    When I have gone into towns I found the 5G service is fine around 200mbps+, but lower than Three 5G for example, and a lot of places are rubbish on 4G at 2-8mbps, and some others around 30-50mbps. It’s a lottery, I’m guessing they will be working around masts reallocating spectrum and increasing backhaul in some cases but it will take time.

  8. Avatar photo Kingskin says:

    I have 5 months left with O2. Since they joined with virgi the service has been terrible. I live a quarter of a mile away from an O2 mast and have terrible service.
    As soon as Trooli internet is available in my area, virgin will be gone aswell!

  9. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    In the overall scale of things this is small beer and is probably more related to the principle as it will cost to pursue it.

    If a contract was placed with prices based on a volume/revenue projections and if VMO2 proactively then removed use it has to be a breech of contract. BT/EE are unlikely to pursue such a claim unless there is material loss in BT’s costs of contracting, setup and support of the MVNO contract.

    The important issue is if Customers who signed up to a service based on EE as the provider but were subsequently transferred to Vodafone/VMO2 which may not meet their location/use.

  10. Avatar photo Scotty says:

    dont get me wrong o2 ant to bad for me ive been with them for about 7 months now and the calls and the texts are spot on etc but the data can be dial up speeds its painful i live in a little town with 3 towers o2 tower is 800mhz bands and the other one is 5G tower but its very slow getting 5G about around here but i can just pick up there 5G tower by the bedroom and i get about 300mg down and the pings are crazy with 10ms pings and 15ms pings but thats just my forts

  11. Avatar photo Roger Thomas says:

    I am currently a Virgin mobile customer who was on the EE based service until a few months ago and then I found that I had been moved across to VMO2. Thankfully the contract is up at the start of October because the reception is a joke just about everywhere I go. The coverage logic of O2 seems to be based on 2 bars and 5kb/s in an outside location being an indication that no additional investment is needed.

    For the 2 years I was connected to EE I never even thought about having access to a connection, now every time I use my phone I end up checking to see if it is even worth trying.

  12. Avatar photo Mark says:

    I have been with SKY mobile (02) for years and signal has now got extremely poor..this has been I’m past 12 months or so getting steadily worse. 4g is non existent in Plymouth city centre or any tourist area in the SW and will get even worse with VM customers joining an already over subscribed network. I am just about to give up all together and port our phones to a Vodafone based network as 02 has got dire. Shame

  13. Avatar photo Liam says:

    I work for VMo2 and had a staff vm sim deal that was moved over to o2 network, as others have said in any built up area it will show 4G but it’s unuseably slow.

    Live in a tourist hotspot and made it even worse on a sunny day when the seafront is busy.

    Put up with it for a month then ported it to EE and now it works great. It’s the difference between 500kbps and 80mbps on a speedtest. May be paying more but worth it.

Comments are closed

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