back to article Then there were 3: Another UK mobile network borged ...

Telefonica has sold O2 to Three big-daddy Hutchison Whampoa for £10bn - and it pretty much had to. Here's why. Telefonica had shown its hand in trying to flog its O2 biz to BT, revealing that it wasn’t interested keeping the brand; Telefonica smacks of never really having its heart in the venture. With BT buying EE, and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OFCOM/Government shouldn't be thinking of the mobile spectrum as a cash cow.

    "...bad for the UK government which wants to maximise revenue from selling the spectrum."

    Whereas I am always in favour of a deal for the tax payer, didn't really help when we sold the 3g spectrum.

    Plus, the providers want to profit. So whatever they pay the government, we therefore end up paying anyway, so there is no real benefit to us. If they don't think down that line then what we are really showing is that they are just screwing us twice. Once by saying "Look what we for for you" before throwing it down the drain in Civil Service costs or whatever, then again when we end up paying more anyway so the providers turn a profit.

    If my reasoning is flawed, please can you point it out? I am not an economist by any stretch of anyone's imagination.

    1. leexgx


      What is surprising is that o2 nor 3 paid for any 2600 spectrum, the issue with that is you really need that 2600 band in dense areas like train stations or events as 2600 is perfect for it show range but can handle large amount of data on 4g

  2. Spiracle

    O3 then?

    It worked so well for the Alien movies.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: O3 then?

      Then BT could change their name to British Orange T-Mobile Ofcom-do-our-bidding Telecom. Or: BOTTOM

    2. WraithCadmus

      Re: O3 then?

      Ozone? Not a terrible name for a comms company.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: O3 then?

        Ozone is toxic at ground level. The new company may be too.

  3. Pedo Bear

    I like Three, lets hope the 4G gets faster now

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I prefer 3G

      its fast enough and my battery does not die as fast as it does when I have been in 4G coverage... But then again I don't get any coverage at home, which makes Three a winner for me with their nice little 'app' to allow me to receive calls over BB

  4. Number6

    Range v Capacity

    Lower frequencies may well help reduce the number of cells required by having longer range, but the other issue is capacity. For that, you need lots of small cells so the number of users per cell remains low. At this point it's easier to use the higher frequencies because they don't propagate as far and the antenna arrays are smaller and more manageable.

    1. Michael Jennings

      Re: Range v Capacity

      This is why you want a bit of both. Assuming the mergers go through, O2/Three are going to be strong on low frequencies but weak on high, whereas EE/BT are going to be weak on low frequencies but strong on high. Only Vodafone is going to have a good balance. This may be due to the company having grown fairly organically rather than being a product of mad mergers, and due to being a company where the engineers are listened to by managements. (There are lots of other things wrong with Vodafone, but they have this relatively right).

      1. xpz393

        Re: Range v Capacity

        This would also leave Vodafone as the UK's only "thoroughbred" network.

        Despite EE's bold claims, the network is still beset with the issues caused by handsets having to quietly 'roam' in the background between the old Orange and T-Mobile networks.

        The building where I work being a good example: For EE, it's now served only by an ex-Orange 2G signal which covers the whole building, and an ex-T-Mobile 3G signal which covers some parts. So, if I start a phonecall and happen to be on the T-Mobile 3G signal and then walk around the building, the phone will often drop the call completely and show "no service" for a few moments until it finds the Orange 2G signal. EE say there's no problem, and can only suggest forcing the phone to use 2G only, which is hardly an option for a smartphone.

        I've fixed the issue by switching to Vodafone. Lots of lovely 4G throughout the building. Nice.

        1. Cynical user

          Re: Range v Capacity

          Those issues genuinely shouldn't happen anymore, where they do - they can be as much todo with the device as the network. I used to have chronic "handover" problems like you describe on an old-2G only phone..they would only ever have been solved when the ex-Orange network code was switched off completely.

          On a modern 3G-device, none of the above - totally seamless and the only clues to the two network codes actually in use are geeky ones!

          Mind, if an Orange-2G cell currently covers the whole building, then you'll eventually get full 2G/3G/4G inside once the site is migrated into MBNL-proper.

  5. captain veg

    cool phone number

    (01) 777-7777 (seven sevens) used to be a shop in West Wickham. Can't remember what it sold, but the number remains implanted in what's left of my brain.


    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: cool phone number Implanted

      Like 01 801 8055

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: cool phone number Implanted

        No, because Swapshop was shit.

        Tiswas was so good it didn't need a telephone number!

        1. GreggS

          Re: cool phone number Implanted

          It would be quite cool if it weren't for the fact it was 01 811 8055. Tiswas was far more cool, if only for the fact that my Dad used to work on it (he was quite often to be found chucking the water into the cage)

      2. Mister_C

        Re: cool phone number Implanted

        01 (if you're outside London) 801 8055


        1. GreggS

          Re: cool phone number Implanted

          Wikipedia FTFY -

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: cool phone number

      0121-777-7777 (seven 7s) is a radio car company in Birmingham of which I am a semi-regular customer. Let's hear it for Asif and his beemer.

      PS: paying for a landline just for broadband. Landline is a long way from exchange, adsl low speed at present. I want to dump the copper.

      What is my best option for cheap (non-streaming) bandwidth without a landline?

      The tramp for obvious reasons.

      1. Red Bren

        Re: cool phone number

        While living in Leeds, a friend asked me for a taxi number so I told him "Two many fours!" For some reason, this didn't seem to satisfy him and he asked me again. So I told him, "dial two, then keep pressing four until it rings."

        Now infuriated, he demanded I tell him the numbers one by one, so I did:








        "Are you taking the piss?"

        "No, it's four."

        "F*ck you!, I'm calling 192."

        They told him the number he required was 2444444.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: cool phone number

          True story:

          I once met a hot babe and actually got her phone number. To my amazement, it was (prefix-deleted) 8094610.

          So what was so amazing? Think about it... especially look for a place to put a question mark between two of the digits.

  6. GingerRogers

    Does the writer forget...

    That 3 hasn't actually bought O2 yet, and won't for a number of months/years as various regulators are going to need to give their seal of approval?

    1. paulf

      Re: Does the writer forget...

      This seems to be a general problem in journalism regarding company news.

      An announcement that Company X has just started talks to acquire Company Y is usually reported as "Company X has bought Company Y" (as if it's completed) when, as you rightly point out, it is nothing of the sort until (among other things) Due Diligence has been completed, approval has been received from all relevant regulators, and the cheque has cleared.

      While we're on the subject, when did "Take over" become a verb? Surely "Company X acquires Company Y", rather than "taking them over".

  7. Michael Jennings

    An error

    I think there is an error in the second table. Three presently owns 20MHz (2x15MHz) at 1800MHz, and O2 owns 12MHz (2x6MHz). That's a total of 42MHz, while it has just been shown as 12MHz in the table.

    In addition to that, there were TDD spectrum allocations at 1900MHz (band 39) that were part of the 3G auction in 2000. These have never been used, but I suspect that the operators still have them. They are not mentioned in the table, though. EE have 10MHz, O2 have 5MHz, and 3 have 5MHz. (Vodafone doesn't have any). These could conceivably be used for TD-LTE, although I have no idea if anyone is considering it.

    1. Michael Jennings

      Re: An error

      I meant "Three presently owns 30MHz (2x15MHz) at 1800MHz". Muphry strikes again.

  8. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    Did Gordon Brown do the maths ?

    Err, is something missing ?

    One page 1, Three is shown as having 30MHz in the 1800 band, and O2 as having 12. When (admittedly a long time ago now) I went to school, 30+12 = 42, but on page 2 it seems to have added up to ... just 12.

    Seems like someone lost 30Mhz down the back of the sofa.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong logic

    The logic about BT having a "problem" with their spectrum all in the high frequency is b***cks.

    As it starts to remove FTTC kit from cabinets and replace it with FTTP and FTTB it will get 80k+ potential small cell sites with existing fiber and power across the UK. So the "problem" of BT having their spectrum in the wrong band does not really exist. In fact, this is the frequency band which the would have wanted in an ideal world to be able to re-use their existing fixed assets.

    1. 080

      Re: Wrong logic

      Stick some WiFi in those cabinets and you won't need so much mobile spectrum

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong logic

        WiFi does not have the coverage required because the inter-cabinet distances are higher than the size of a "cell".

        LTE does.

        So if BT starts to do this, it will be "check, mate, Vodafone and Three" unless one (or both) of them promptly gets in bed with the sole remaining proprietor of suitable properties for small cell deployment - the electric companies.

        The only other place besides the BT cabinets which can take a small cell in residential neighbourhood is the electric substation. While most of them are not yet fibered, all of them are properly ducted nowdays so you can just blow a fiber in parallel to the electric cables. It also fits the deployment profile of slightly lower frequencies by being a bit more sparse than the fugly Openreach street boxes. Most sites also have existing planning permissions for antennas as they used to be connected by radio.

    2. Bluenose

      Re: Wrong logic

      Considering the limited scope of BT's plans for FTTC, it is more probable that they will only get a few thousand additional small cells and all of them will be in large urban conurbations. Us poor "country" dwellers will have to stick with Vodafone 3G or what ever other company sticks up a mast but doesn't bother extending its LTE to them.

    3. Colin of Rame

      Re: Wrong logic

      And you and me paid for most of those cabinets with the Superfast broadband rollout :-(((

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I was a betting man

    I'd say that Vodafone will merge with O3 in the next couple of years.

    Back to a monopoly system again.

    The telephone network is (was?) the only privatisation that actually worked to benefit the general public. Guess that will change once the competition is culled.

  11. ukgnome

    Cut the crap

    and spell it out just how much this means the consumer will be shafted.

  12. Steve Medway

    I still don't quite understand how things are going to work out at network level. We have MBNL (Three & EE) & Cornerstone (o2 & Vodaphone) running/constructing/maintaining cell sites.

    It would make sense to combine MBNL & Cornerstone and create a telephony equivilent of the National Grid. This could potentially be a way for the Gov to get its way with regards to National Roaming without any actual roaming taking place. CapEx expenditure on a single network would surely bring economies of scale too.

    I suppose I'm proposing one core network with at least a 99% landmass coverage obligation with BT/EE, Vodafone & Three/o2 acting almost as if they were MVNO's. With that kind of obligation then getting rid of TETRA and moving onto a later spec LTE for the Emergency Services would then make sense too.

    Ofcom's role would be to police the networks to ensure that customers arn't ripped off (Ofgem is a good idea but has nowhere near enough clout to protect consumers but even with that issue nobody can claim the UK national grid doesn't work incredibly well compared to most other countries).

    Unfortunately it's probably too good an idea to ever happen :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I still don't quite understand how things are going to work out at network level. We have MBNL (Three & EE) & Cornerstone (o2 & Vodaphone) running/constructing/maintaining cell sites."

      Partly right, but it's the bits that a wrong that make this fail. Cornerstone 'manage' the dumb cell site infrastructure but there is a hell of a difference between the steel and concrete and the clever electronics inside. So essentially Cornerstone already are a 'National Grid' and Vodafone and O2 supply the 'Power Stations' which just like in your analogy are not part of the managed grid. Ditto Network Rail analogy could work, but again the rolling stock is per railway company. Then almost anyone can resell those services.

      In all these cases there is no current Precedent for a single entity managing the whole chain successfully. Capacity is always managed separated from the underlying infrastructure, for very good reasons.

      1. Cynical user

        Absolutely right... except for a couple of small details.

        WIthin the "CTIL" setup, the install and operation of the actual network kit is done through the shared "single grid". In the west, Vodafone are responsible for the "joint" network, in the east it's O2. (Except London).

        Within MBNL, the 3G is completely shared, 2G & 4G done separately by 3/EE. So unravelling this little conundrum could be one of the more interesting parts of any 3/O2 merger.

  13. pctechxp

    Why did Telefonica buy it then?

    If they weren't really that interested then it might have been better to leave mmO2 as an LSE listed company.

  14. Hubert Thrunge Jr.


    That's earmarked for ESMCP. If Ofcom put for sale signs up, the Home Office will tear them down! They want it exclusivel, and before 2022 most certainly! ESN is due to go live next year, with all services migrated to it by mid 2019

  15. werdsmith Silver badge

    WTF ?!?!

    Hutchison created the useless Rabbit which became Orange, but Hutchison also created Three 3G.

    Mercury 1-2-1 became T-Mobile that joined with Orange (Hutchison - see above) to become EE.


    BT Cellnet becomes O2 which it dumps on Telefonica which they sell to Hutchison.

    BT Then takes over EE.

    It's like some corporate billion dollar game of musical chairs, but effectively BT and Hutchison have swapped BT Cellnet for Orange and 1-2-1.

  16. Cuddles Silver badge


    "you will see that all the O2-Three spectrum is at 2100MHz or below, with the vast majority below 1GHz."

    Pretty sure I won't see that at all. The table shows O3 as having 65 below 1GHz and 92 above. Far from being the "vast majority" it's actually a minority.

  17. Zog The Undeniable

    I remember when Racal Vodafone was a little company in the centre of Newbury. Now Vodafone owns Newbury to the extent that it tells the local council what it wants, and they have to do it. Mind you, I also remember when Orange had really good customer service and you could get through to a helpful person in the call centre after just one or two rings.

    BT Cellnet was for the suits.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021