back to article Three drops £250m on UK Broadband

After being smote by regulators in its attempt to buy O2 for £10.25bn, Three has snapped up UK Broadband for a cool £250m instead. UK Broadband provides broadband access to 15,000 customers in the UK and under the deal will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Three UK. Dave Dyson, chief exec of Three UK, said: “UK Broadband …

  1. druck Silver badge

    4, 3, 2...

    Well another couple years when Ofcom can't go running to EU for help keeping to its dogma of 4 networks,Three could have another play for O2.

    1. tjb001

      Re: 4, 3, 2...

      Why did Ofcom let BT buy EE and not let Three buy O2?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 4, 3, 2...

        Indeed, makes no sense. Three don't have a 2G network to fallback on for voice, so really needed O2 to give them this.

        I have just left three as a result of Ofcoms decision to block the Three/o2 merger. It's clear there are plenty of brown envelopes circulating here.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 4, 3, 2...

        Because BT was not a mobile network so buying EE did not reduce the number of competing networks. We have Vodafone, BT/EE, Three and O2. If Three bought O2 then we'd effectively lose one of the networks. We'd have Vodafone, BT/EE and Three.

        1. ARGO

          Re: 4, 3, 2...

          BT did have a load of mobile spectrum and an MVNO though - it just hadn't got very far with building its physical network. BT being slow at building a network doesn't look like a great reason to allow the merger Perhaps Three should have closed down its network before trying to buy O2? On OFCOMs logic that would be OK :-/

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Mark2410

        Re: 4, 3, 2...

        BT have been bribing err I mean taking out for lunch OFCOM for years

  2. kain preacher

    You know what ofcom should just allow all the broadband companies to merg, just as long as the knew company is called shit broadband.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Smote by regulators?

    You besmirch them sir, you besmirch them with great vigour and fervore.

    Ye regulator whom smoteth yonder Three sensed dark tidings...NAY!...great skullduggery afoot.

    *shuffles off in his jaunty +1 cracked leather cap and level 2 wand of commenting*

  4. Steven Jones


    Over £16k per subscriber? That's quite some premium. Of course there will be fixed assets, but that's rather a lot of money. I assume they are planning some major expansion, but it's a pretty crowded market place.

    1. HollyHopDrive

      Re: Expensive

      Well actually I think it's probably a pretty smart move. It's a small ISP so it's a doddle to migrate systems (relatively) to their own billing systems for example. But more importantly they have all the links and processes in place for dealing with BT openreach and the like. Throw in a sizable chunk of marketing money to get customers with a massive advertising campaign. So three can now start to offer stupid broadband deals to three customers not to mention playing BT at their own game of free wifi. And three are finally sorting out wi-fi calling so maybe not entirely unrelated.

      So daft, probably not so much. It's just not going to happen overnight but I'd say there aren't going to go down without a fight. And given how they changed the mobile market (a bit like orange did all those years ago too) I'd put money on some market disruption coming, or at least an attempt.

      How much or how successful time will tell. Also, their customer service can suck badgers balls sometimes so they may want to work on that too before trying their hand at broadband.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: links and processes ... for dealing with BT openreach

        "they have all the links and processes in place for dealing with BT openreach and the like."

        Who has all the links and processes for BT Openreach etc?

        Three don't.

        And nor do PCCW or Netvigator or Now Broadband or Relish or UK Broadband or whatever they'll be called next week. They were (are? allegedly?) *fixed wireless* broadband providers, who started their UK career by buying up all the UK fixed wireless access broadband licences in post-auction deals, and then doing nothing with the licences, for years. See e.g.

        Some analysis of that, and the mysterious role of the Hutchison companies in this picture, would be welcome in the next article on this subject.

      2. Andre Carneiro

        Re: Expensive

        Three are sitting out WiFi Calling? Do you know something that I don't?

        <pricks ears in excitement>

    2. ARGO

      Re: Expensive

      I suspect the interest is in the spectrum rather than the subscribers. £250m for 120MHz of LTE spectrum? That more than doubles 3's holdings. Admittedly it's in the 3.4GHz band, which is "not immediately useable" according to OFCOM, but as UKBB have subscribers there must be a few routers available at least.

    3. Steven Jones

      Re: Expensive

      The stories in the financial sections this morning shed rather more light on this. The official justification appears to be that the value is in the spectrum bandwidth owned by the company. It might get become and important asset should it be included in the 5G technical standards.

      However, perhaps just as important, 3 is owned by on of the richest man in Asia (Li Ka-shing), and UK Broadband was a venture by his son (Richard). It appears that the price paid will just about cover the investment and accumulated operating losses of UK Broadband...

  5. Zmodem

    maybe the next venture will be toothpaste

  6. Simon Rockman

    It's ALL about the spectrum

    The customer base of 15,000 is worth between £2m and £3m. You might attribute some value to the Relish brand but not much. The value is in the spectrum.

    The magic thing about 3.4GHz is that it's flavour of the month for 5G and has been allocated some experimental status. It's not enough bandwidth for Ericsson's vision of 5G which wants 500MHz of contiguous spectrum and so is looking at much higher frequencies but it's plumb where Huawei see 5G.

    Unfortunately this move goes to re-enforce Ofcom's (unstated) reason for blocking the Three/O2 sale. If the two companies had merged there would have been one fewer customer for the (delayed for over a year), auction ( for 3.4GHz and 2.3GHz. Ofcom is all about "recognising market value" for the spectrum, and Three has just put a price on it. And Ofcom has to be disappointed at how low that is.

    Ofcom claims it's about keeping competition in the market but if you look at what has happened at retail, all the real networks have increased prices. Only the MVNOs keep the MNOs under price pressure.

    The 2.3GHz is now interesting because there are quite a lot of phones which support it.

    1. Zmodem

      Re: It's ALL about the spectrum

      a big chunk of the money would be for the contracts to the public sector if the police force are using them for mobile internet

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Croyden

    "Adds 15,000 customers, equivalent to one-tenth of Croydon"

    Are we witnessing the birth of a new El Reg Unit of Measurement; The Croydon?

  8. Steve 114

    Le Cashin

    The Times reports that 3's mega-parent is joint-managed by #1 son Li, while UKBB's parent company is chaired by #2 son Richard. Are they by any chance related?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Le Cashin

      Also reported in the FT (paywalled )

      "Three UK has paid £250m to buy lossmaking wireless internet provider Relish as a first step into the home broadband market by Britain’s fourth-largest mobile group.

      Three is owned by CK Hutchison, controlled by Asia’s richest man Li Ka-shing, while UK Broadband, the company behind Relish, is owned by Hong Kong-based telecoms company PCCW, which is run by his son Richard Li.

      The deal will also provide Three with additional mobile spectrum, which can be used for any future launch of 5G services. The mobile phone operator abandoned plans for a £10.25bn takeover of larger rival O2 last year after the deal was blocked by European competition regulators.

      PCCW has been trying to crack the British market since 2004, when it acquired a licence to operate a WiMax network that offered faster and more wide-ranging signals than WiFi. It initially launched as an internet provider called Now Wireless but rebranded in 2014 as Relish, offering a line rental-free broadband service in inner London.


      And via Bloomberg (not paywalled):

      "Li Ka-Shing to Buy U.K. Broadband Assets From Younger Son

      by Prudence Ho

      February 6, 2017, 8:36 PM EST February 7, 2017, 3:52 AM EST

      Billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to buy a telecommunications business in the U.K. from his younger son for 300 million pounds ($374 million) in a shuffling of assets within Hong Kong’s richest family.

      Through CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three U.K., Li will pay his son’s PCCW Ltd. 250 million pounds in cash and 50 million pounds in credit vouchers for U.K. Broadband, which holds spectrum and wireless network assets, according to a filing in Hong Kong on Monday. PCCW, controlled by billionaire Richard Li, expects to post a gain of about HK$1.3 billion ($168 million) from the deal, it said.

      [continues; includes video]"

      It's what taking back control is all about, innit. Lend us a quid till the end of the week, guvnor. My BT Bill's gone through the roof.

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