In the wake of the Dixons Carphone merger, it seems that the UK mobile space is about to get even tougher for rival Phones 4U. Today, Vodafone has withdrawn from their partnership with Phones 4U, leaving just EE and Virgin Media left selling their phones through Phones 4U stores. When the Dixons Carphone group deal went through, it raised questions as to whether or not Phones 4U would be able to compete on the same scale, and while the company maintains that they can, it seems less likely following today's news.
A Vodafone spokesperson had this to say on the matter; "Earlier this year Vodafone UK said it was reviewing its distribution strategies in the UK and that it would be opening a further 150 stores and creating 1,400 new jobs. As part of that review, Vodafone today confirms that it will be enhancing its distribution partnership with Dixons Carphone from early next year and will not be extending its existing contract with Phones4U, which expires in February 2015. We will continue to work with a range of other indirect partners, who represent an important part of our business mix." So, we're still likely to see devices on Vodafone's network sold over the holiday period and into early 2015, but beyond that it seems like Phones 4U might have a lot less variety to offer customers.
Speaking about the change, the high-street retailer's CEO said that he was "disappointed" to learn Vodafone's decision and while the network themselves haven't released figures, Phones 4U say they sold 430,000 Vodafone contract connections and 125,000 prepay SIMs in the 12 months to February 2014. Phones 4U is now left with EE and Virgin Media as partners, but EE is a big fish to have covering more of the UK than any other network, including 4G coverage. Phones 4U and EE are set to become even closer as the high-street chain launches their own network resting on EE's backbone dubbed "Life Mobile" which is said to be fully tested and ready to go.
Just what this "enhanced partnership" with Dixons Carphone turns out to be will be interesting, but it is good to see Vodafone opening more stores across the UK, which will in turn create jobs. Going forward, it looks like 2015 might be one of Phones 4U's toughest years yet.