EE is allegedly considering the withdrawal of its business from major device retailers Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u. The UK's biggest 4G network - along with its 3G brands T-Mobile UK and Orange UK - is responsible for over a third of UK users. Although it has not confirmed this latest report, it has acknowledged that it is conducting a strategic review of its distribution partnerships.
This turn of events may be related to comments made by Gervais Pellissier - an executive at French telecoms giant Orange, which co-owns the EE joint venture in the UK with Germany's Deutsche Telekom - who suggested that the network must "get rid" of third-party partnerships and focus on direct sales for future success.
A spokesperson for EE told The Telegraph:
While we do not comment specifically on ongoing negotiations, we can confirm that we're formally reviewing our distribution strategy, primarily in the consumer space, with a view to fewer, deeper partnerships based on value and shared ambitions.
Any withdrawal of EE's business could cause headaches for retailers that rely on a wide range of networks for consumers to compare. Carphone Warehouse, for example, currently offers six network brands, which would be halved to three if EE and its associate T-Mobile and Orange brands disappear.
If EE's rumoured plans to focus exclusively on direct sales materialise, the further development of its own store network will be vital. The company is planning to increase the number of its retail stores from 520 to 570 in the coming months, although this total is still far below that of Carphone Warehouse alone, which operates 780 stores nationwide.
The final decision is expected to be revealed within weeks. However nothing is confirmed at this stage, so we'll be sure to keep you posted on the latest updates.