Vodafone and Three: UK regulator invites public opinion on merger

11 Oct 2023

Image: © doganmesut/Stock.adobe.com

Part of the Big Four mobile operators in the UK market, Vodafone and Three will become the largest mobile operator in the country if the deal goes through.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is looking for comments on potential impacts of a proposed merger between the UK operations of mobile operators Vodafone and Three.

Ahead of the launch of a formal investigation into the merger confirmed in June, the CMA said it wants to gather all the information it can based on views from third parties on how the deal could dampen competition in the mobile telecommunication services sector in the UK.

“Millions of consumers and businesses in the UK rely on Vodafone’s and Three’s mobile networks to stay connected,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA.

“We will be carefully considering how this deal may affect competition in the UK, which could affect the options and prices available to customers. We will also assess how it may affect incentives to invest in the quality of UK mobile networks.”

Vodafone and Three are part of the Big Four mobile operators in the UK, alongside BT’s EE network and Virgin Media O2.

While the prerogative to decide if the merger can go through rests with the CMA, the competition regulator said it will consult Ofcom, the regulatory body that oversees mobile communications, on the matter.

Starting today (11 October), the CMA will accept comments from interested third parties until 1 November, after which it will launch the first phase of its investigation.

“This is an opportunity for those with an interest in this merger to let us know their views before we launch a full investigation,” Cardell added.

Vodafone and Three entered binding agreements to combine their UK operations in June, a deal that could lead to the creation of the biggest mobile operator in the country.

The combined business will have more than 27m subscribers, pushing it past BT’s EE and Virgin Media’s O2. Vodafone will own 51pc of the new business, while Three will own the remaining 49pc. No cash is being paid as part of the merger deal.

The new company will invest £11bn over 10 years to accelerate the roll-out of 5G across the UK, one of the main goals of the merger when it was first announced last year, with Vodafone claiming a merged company would be better equipped to handle the costs of a 5G roll-out.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic