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Carphone Warehouse launches mobile network iD, with free roaming

Using Three's 4G masts, the new mobile network promises cheap deals and flexible 12-month contracts.

iD is a new mobile network from Carphone Warehouse. iD/Carphone Warehouse

Can I see some iD? There's another new player in the UK mobile industry as Carphone Warehouse reveals its 4G mobile network iD, with some help from Three.

Launching in May, iD offers 12-month contracts, 4G LTE data and free roaming. The first phone on offer from the network is the Samsung Galaxy A3 , available for a limited time for £19.50 with a 12-month 4G plan with 300 minutes, 5,000 texts and 1GB of data.

"The promise of 12-month contracts is likely to be a major win," says Ernest Doku, industry observer at uSwitch.com. "Mobile users are craving flexibility -- we know that because of the rising popularity of SIM-only deals. The mobile market is seeing a big shift where consumers want to be in more control, especially younger phone owners."

After the failure of Phones 4U, Carphone Warehouse is the major mobile retail presence on the British high street. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Not to be confused with fashion mag i-D, iD is what's known as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. Like other MVNOs such as Tesco Mobile and GiffGaff, it has its own branding, but uses the masts and infrastructure of another network. In this case, iD uses Three's infrastructure.

"It's quite a coup that iD piggybacks on Three's network given that Carphone Warehouse hasn't offered any deals from the network in years," says Doku. "Perhaps iD was the olive branch."

And like Three, which offers free international roaming with its Feel at Home scheme, iD also offers international travel without any extra costs. iD covers 22 countries, including the US and Australia -- that's more than Three's 18, and includes more European countries. Three, however, covers more non-European countries, such as Indonesia, Israel and New Zealand.

Industry analyst Kester Mann of CCS Insight believes iD's roaming plan is a smart move. "Given the efforts by the EC to reduce roaming charges -- new Commissioner Gunther Oettinger reiterated his keenness to abolish them yesterday -- it's a move that carries limited risk, as fees are declining anyway."

2015 has seen a number of big changes in the British mobile industry. BT launched BT Mobile in March, and is also set to create a broadband, landline, TV and mobile behemoth by buying the largest network, EE -- itself formed from a merger of Orange and T-Mobile a few years ago. Three's owner Hutchison Whampoa is snapping up O2, while Sky is planning an MVNO to round out its broadband, landline and TV portfolio.

"The MVNO market in the UK is already highly competitive and saturated," says Mann, "so Carphone will face challenges. Given the anticipated future MVNO launches -- Post Office, Sky etc -- its move to offer innovative services like data roaming and flexible plans will be vital to success."

You'll be able to find out more and sign up to iD online or in branches of Carphone Warehouse, Currys and PC World. The three gadget retail chains are all owned by the same company, Dixons Carphone, formed by a £3.8 billion merger in May 2014.

"Carphone's strong distribution and retail presence will boost opportunities to sell its mobile service," says Mann. "BT, for example, does not have this advantage."