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Virgin Media in talks to launch 4G ahead of O2 and Vodafone

Virgin Media is in talks with EE about 4G, potentially launching significantly earlier than rivals Three, O2 and Vodafone.

Virgin Media could be getting in on the 4G action. Richard Branson's favourite phone network is in talks with EE about a possible 4G service, potentially launching significantly earlier than rivals Three, O2 and Vodafone and bagging phones like the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE.

"4G will play an important part in meeting the growing demand for wireless capacity," said Virgin Media. "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."

Virgin Media uses EE's infrastructure -- masts and stuff -- to work its phone network. That means Virgin already has access to the 1,800GHz frequency that's been cleared for 4G use by telecoms watchdog Ofcom.

Virgin Media joins Three as one of the networks with a slice of the 1,800GHz airwaves, but that doesn't mean Three will be able to launch its own 4G service as quickly. Three is buying a portion of the 4G spectrum that EE has been ordered to sell by competition watchdogs, but EE is in the driver's seat with regards to 4G because Three will reportedly not be offering its service until next year.

EE -- which stands for the frankly nonsensical Everything Everywhere -- is the new name for the mega-network formed by the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. The LTE service will be called 4GEE and could launch any day -- if rival networks can't stop it.

O2 and Vodafone will have to wait until next year to launch their own 4G services, when Ofcom auctions the separate spectrum earmarked for 4G services. In the meantime, the two networks are mounting a legal challenge to EE's 4G service.

To see what the fuss is about with 4G, check out our quick speed test with the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE:

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE 4G speed test

Are you on Virgin Media? What do you think of the service? And are you excited about 4G? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.