Roll out of the UK's new 4G LTE spectrum continues to be the UK tech world's hottest topic not related to a certain fruitily-named US company, with the latest news indicating that Virgin Media is in talks with network provider EE to join the high-speed connectivity party.
Speculation is pointing to Virgin hopping on the bandwagon later this year, with the multi-faceted media operation appearing to be well placed to hash out a deal with EE sooner rather than later.
The two parties already have an agreement in place allowing Virgin to use the EE network for mobile services, and a place on the 1800MHz 4G spectrum seems a natural progression of the existing arrangement.
A Virgin Media representative confirmed that talks were in progress and that the company planned to join the new-gen network in 2012.
"People are increasingly using smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices to get online and 4G will play an important part in meeting the growing demand for wireless," the spokesperson said in a statement.
They added: "Launching 4G services this year promises to bring significant benefits to UK consumers as people begin to make the most of forthcoming superfast mobile connections."
At the same time, reports indicate that 4G's eagerly anticipated arrival could in fact be delayed, after rivals of EE – a newly-formed arm of Everything Everywhere dedicated to 4G LTE services – threatened to launch legal action.
Competitors Vodafone, O2, and Three are incensed that Ofcom gave a head start to Everything Everywhere - formed via a merger of Orange and T-Mobile – on 4G roll out, while other networks had been told to wait for a government-sanctioned auction next year.
As a result, EE was able to launch its 4G LTE service in conjunction with the release of the year's blockbuster handset, the iPhone 5. The subscriptions currently on offer hint that the new high-speed network will go live in October.
However, the rival firms are now pushing hard for the spectrum auction to be moved forward so they too can roll out a superfast service before the end of the year.
According to the Financial Times, courtroom drama remains a real possibility if the peace talks currently under way between EE, Vodafone, O2, and Ofcom fail, with any legal proceedings likely to significantly disrupt 4G roll out.
"We're talking about the possibility of bringing the auction forward and asking if the frequencies used in the spectrum can be cleared quickly," and O2 spokesperson indicated.
4G LTE connectivity is set to offer speeds up to three times faster than current-generation 3G networks, and the immediate availability of the high-speed spectrum is regarded by many as essential to the UK enterprise as well as being hugely desirable from a consumer standpoint.
For more on 4G, check out Will Dalton's definitive guide to EE's 4G LTE UK network.