Phone retailer Carphone Warehouse is in talks with mobile operator Three to launch its own-brand mobile network, it has been revealed.
The reseller, which has more than 2,000 stores throughout Europe, had apparently opened discussions with several UK networks, but talks with Three are thought to be the furthest advanced as the company looks to embrace other areas of technology beyond its traditional area of mobile phones and tablets.
The allegations seem particularly likely given an announcement from Carphone Warehouse earlier this month that it was planning on setting up an MVNO in Ireland using Three's network. The new network, set to go live in mid-2015, will utilise the newly-combined Three and O2 Ireland networks, which merged last month in a €780m deal.
"We want to protect our strategic relationships with existing networks," Carphone Warehouse MD Peter Scott said at the time. "We intend to treat the operator and the retail business as separate units. This way, the retail business will treat the new operator in exactly the same way that it would any other operator. There will be no added incentive for our retail staff to sell an operator connection over another operator's connection."
The company is set to merge with electronics giant Dixons later this year in a deal worth £3.8bn, creating a new entity, Dixons Carphone, which will oversee around 3,000 stores across Europe.
At the time of the announcement, the companies said that the deal would look to exploit the soaring number of devices connected to the internet, since Dixons sold them and Carphone Warehouse connected them, with the new Three-powered network set to be behind much of this.
Carphone Warehouse already has an existing partnership with Vodafone to resell low-cost contracts under the Talkmobile brand, a partnership which currently boasts around 700,000 customers and is set to continue.
The deals are unlikely to please other major UK operators, with EE rumoured to be considering its future with both Carphone Warehouse and its major rival Phones4U as it looks to focus more on direct sales to customers.
Both Carphone Warehouse and Three declined to comment on the news.