Vodafone and Three merger will be UK’s largest network, here’s what it could mean for you

The U.K. could be about to lose a mobile phone network with Vodafone and Three announcing their intention to merge. The move would create the country’s biggest network in the process.


The new group would be majority owned by Vodafone, the companies confirmed, but only just — 51% of the new company would be owned by the company and it would have an option to buy the rest of Three’s stake in the future. The pair say that the resulting business will invest £11 billion in the U.K. over the next decade in an attempt to «create one of Europe’s most advanced standalone 5G networks.» But will the merger ever actually happen?

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More wholesale competition?

In a joint press release, Vodafone and Three announced that by merging the two companies’ networks the U.K.’s MVNOs will «gain better choice for wholesale partnerships, keeping fierce price competition at the retail level.»

An MVNO is a company that essentially resells access to a carrier’s network. One example would be Sky which uses O2’s network, and the press release says that «approximately 90% of MVNO customers are currently on BT EE or Virgin Media-O2 networks.» The suggestion is that following the merging Vodafone and Three, MVNOs will have another option to choose from.

However, some worry that the merger will actually reduce competition in the marketplace as far as customers are concerned. Some also question where the £11 billion 5G network investment will actually come from.

Ernest Doku, a telecoms expert at Uswitch.com mobiles, wonders whether customers will see a price hike in the future — at a time when in-contract price increases are already hitting people hard.

«At a time when millions across the UK are facing the highest mid-contract prices we’ve ever seen, consumers need assurances that this merger will not result in even higher household bills,» Doku told Pocket-lint via email. «The pledge of a significant investment in 5G over the next decade is some solace that they will be building for a better future of connectivity, so long as it is adhered to. What we don’t want to see is customers footing the bill with further increases to pricing.»

All of this will be moot if the merger can’t get beyond the U.K.’s competition watchdog. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will likely take a close look at the deal and decide whether it’s in the best interest of people across the U.K. If it isn’t, Vodafone and Three’s merger might never get going in the first place. However, the pair will no doubt point toward that £11 billion in infrastructure funding when making its case that the merger will be for the betterment of 5G availability around the country.

Por TERABITE

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