Virgin Media is to give its mobile customers the ability to use Orange's mobile network when they're in an area not covered by the network's signal.

Virgin Media is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), which means rather than create its own network, it piggy backs on T-Mobile's network. In October last year, T-Mobile and Orange became the first UK mobile operators to let customers automatically switch between the two networks if they lost signal. The move came after a merger between the pair.

Orange and T-Mobile first announced plans to merge in 2009 and were given the go-ahead by the European Competition Commission in March 2010. The parent company created by the merger is known as Everything, Everywhere.

Now Virgin Media is offering its mobile network customers the same service.

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Similar to the network swapping between T-Mobile and Orange, Virgin Media's mobile customers will find they can only use the Orange network to make calls, send text messages and access 2G-based data services.

"Virgin Media customers already enjoy the UK's fastest broadband and the most advanced TV services, now they'll benefit from enhanced mobile coverage too," said Graeme Oxby, executive director of home phone and mobile at Virgin Media.

"With our combination of fixed and mobile services, we are uniquely positioned to cater for a new era of 'always on' connectivity, be it with our cutting edge broadband or TiVo service at home or enjoying the latest mobile entertainment whilst on the go."

Virgin Media said it would begin rolling out the function this month and plans for all customers will be given the opportunity to use the Orange network when they are out-of-signal, by the end of the year. To sign-up to the service, Virgin Media customers should simply text Yes to 789777 or visit the network's dedicated web page.