The 3G aspects of the forthcoming gaming handheld, the Sony PlayStation Vita, will be handled by Vodafone.

An official partnership has been announced by Sony and the phone network, meaning that Vodafone is the "preferred provider" for the 3G version of the console.

The 3G handheld will come boxed with a Vodafone SIM card and the network will also sell the console directly both online and in-store. The SIM will allow access to the "social gaming experiences" that the Vita will offer.

Users will also be able to grab themselves a free game - WipEout 2048 - from the PlayStation Store.

"With social gaming and connectivity at the heart of PlayStation Vita it is important that we partner with a market leading network provider, to ensure users have a high quality 3G experience," said Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

"Partnering with Vodafone will enable PS Vita users in the selected countries to always be connected with their PlayStation life, friends and games, wherever they are."

At this point it isn't clear what, if any, the 3G charges may be and whether or not PS Vita consoles will be locked to Vodafone's network.

The PS Vita will go on sale in the UK, Europe and the US on 22 February. The new console will be available for €249.99 (£217) for the Wi-Fi model and €299.99 (£261) for the 3G/Wi-Fi model.

The Vodafone partnership will be live in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand and The Netherlands, as well as via SFR in France.