Carphone Warehouse could launch its own mobile network with Three's help

Carphone Warehouse, like Phones 4u, is a retailer and reseller in one -- it's just as interested in flogging phones and tablets as it is setting you up with a mobile contract from any of the major UK carriers. According to The Financial Times, however, it might soon be getting into the carrier business itself, by launching an MVNO on Three's network. Carphone Warehouse has already partnered with Vodafone to resell low-cost contracts under the Talkmobile brand, though the network operator deals with all customers at its end. Sources claim various carriers have been approached as the now-merged Carphone Warehouse and Dixons look for new opportunities, but discussions with Three are at a more advanced stage.

It sounds far from a done deal, but makes sense that Carphone Warehouse might want their own tariffs to sell phones against. But, what happens to its current business model as a result? We're not sure how the likes Vodafone and O2 might react to Carphone Warehouse being both a third-party sales channel and a competitor (rumor has it EE's thinking about cutting ties with resellers anyway). We'd guess it all depends on whether the company will aggressively push its own tariffs, or simply offer a low-cost option -- which is typically how other MVNOs like Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile operate -- to complement the pricey, premium packages provided by the major carriers.

Update: A reader has pointed out that Carphone Warehouse is setting up an MVNO in Ireland using Three's airwaves, adding credibility to the rumor something similar might be planned for the UK. CPW's Irish network will offer 4G speeds and high-end handsets, though the company "wants to protect our strategic relationships with existing networks," and won't tempt retail staff into playing favourites.