back to article O2 be a fly on the wall during BT and Vodafone's video calls: Telefónica's UK biz, Virgin Media officially merge

Telcos Telefónica and Liberty Global today confirmed plans to join their O2 UK and Virgin Media subsidiaries into one combined entity in a deal analysts branded a "blockbuster merger". The combined provider will sell fixed-line, mobile, and paid television services, and would directly challenge the dominance of BT in the UK. …

  1. djstardust

    Ha ha

    Two shit companies get together to create an even more shit one.

    Virgin lying about speeds, terrible customer service. O2 with a network that's way behind anyone else and expensive too.

    As much as I'm not Vodafone's biggest fan the network is very good, especially for data and the issues we've had with broadband (caused by BT cutting through a cable) we're dealt with reasonably well.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Ha ha

      "O2 with a network that's way behind anyone else and expensive too."

      All the customers on GiffGaff, Tesco and many many more will disagree. In fact 02 MVNO's are amongst the cheapest. Add to that I have a choice of a decent O2 4g or a barely useable signal from the others, for me coverage was the main decider to go with Giff Gaff

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Ha ha

        "In fact 02 MVNO's are amongst the cheapest"

        Doesn't mean that the O2 network isn't behind the others.

        Could mean O2 are sweating their assets and not investing in upgrades etc.

        I've never had an O2 phone, i did have cellnet Pay as you go a long time a go, inspired by THOIC which turned out to be encouraged by News Corps NDS but any way.

      2. david bates

        Re: Ha ha

        I won't - I moved from O2s just about acceptable network to GiffGaff, which was obviously the same network , but with less reliability (somehow) and 'ask the person sitting next to you on the bus - perhaps they can help...?' customer support. A plague on BOTH their houses.

        I jumped ship to 3 and haven't looked back.

        1. Tom Chiverton 1

          Re: Ha ha

          What support can you possibly need ? They post you a SIM, you put it in and login on their web site. Done.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ha ha

            So, if the SIM fails, or you lose signal in your area, or there's a problem porting a number, or your bill is wrong, you don't need a support network. For example.

        2. simonlb Silver badge

          Re: Ha ha

          I jumped ship to 3 and haven't looked back.

          Is this the same company as Three, whose 3G and 4G signals seem unable to penetrate anything more substantial than a tent? After years of putting up with that I moved to Vodafone five months ago and I can finally get a usable internet connection on my mobile inside a building. Even in pubs (when they were a thing.)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ha ha

      "As much as I'm not Vodafone's biggest fan the network is very good, especially for data and the issues we've had with broadband (caused by BT cutting through a cable) we're dealt with reasonably well."

      And that pretty much describes my experience win VM. I rarely have issues and customer support have almost always been useful and helpful on the very few occasions I've had reason to call them. From what I can gather, it depends where you live and if that part of their network has been oversold.

      I've been with them since the United Artists/Telewest/Blueyonder/Virgin Media days, before broadband, before even the unmetered dial-up service. IIRC there has been two major outages affecting me (New Years Eve flooding at Knowesly being a memorable one), one failed cable modem that got replaced in 48 hours and one TV box that failed and was replaced in 24 hours.

  2. dubno

    meh

    Both companies were already in my black book as "do not use"... Should I merge them into a single entry?

  3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
    WTF?

    combined 46 million subscribers ...?

    34m + 14m + 3.3m doesn't equal 46m in any maths I know of. I get 51.3m. Am I missing something? Or do they expect 10% to say "fuck off" and defect (escape) to other services while the getting's good (i.e. new org, significant contract change, contract and exit fees don't apply)?

    1. Steve Foster

      Re: combined 46 million subscribers ...?

      You're missing that some Virgin Media customers will also be O2 customers already (presumably roughly 5m of them, based on the maths).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: combined 46 million subscribers ...?

        Not only that but not all VM mobile customers have their mobile accounts on the TV/BB accounts. Virgin Mobile was a separate company back in the day.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: combined 46 million subscribers ...?

      "Am I missing something?"

      Overlap.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: combined 46 million subscribers ...?

        Exactly. I'm a virgin media customer and an O2 customer so would fit in the overlap.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: combined 46 million subscribers ...?

      John Venn wants a word with you.

  4. Steve Foster
    Devil

    Branding...

    VM + O2 = VOM² ?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Branding...

      VoMIT ?

  5. Alan Sharkey

    I've had virgin cable for 20 years now - apart from the line dropping around once every 6 months for about 4 hours, it seems pretty stable. Virgin TV is OK - comparable to Sky (apart from Sky Atlantic). I haven't had any support issues and the deal I have is, to my eyes, pretty good (500Mb/sec broadband+all entertainment, sports and film channels + unlimited land line calls + unlimited everything Sim card for £99/month).

    The O2 merger won't make much difference to me unless they start removing things.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coat

      Nah they will just put the price up and claim its going up with inflation.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Nope they will give you a FREE upgrade, then bump up the price.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        What about the Corona surcharge?

        1. Eeep !

          They'll have to get fizzical to take that.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "What about the Corona surcharge?"

          If anything, I would expect VM, like Sky, Netflix Amazon etc are seeing an upturn in subscribers and/or existing subscribers upgrading their packages. (apart from people probably cancelling the expensive sports channel options!)

  6. Steve Foster

    Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

    Presumably will be for Vodafone and Sky to get together.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

      That would be interesting as both have significant investment in broadband.

    2. ARGO

      Re: Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

      Or Three and Sky.

      Three are on record as being against quad play. But then so were O2.

      And Three have just had a change of management.

      One thing for sure - Sky will be looking closely at their MVNO contract with O2!

      1. Austin Montego

        Re: Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

        But where do Sky go? EE is owned by BT. There's Vodafone, which is presumably still slated to carry Virgin Mobile from 2021 unless they can get out of it with a change of ownership clause in the contract. Or Three, who as you say look ripe for a merger or acquisition ... especially considering Li KaShing's previously stated desire for such a merger.

      2. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

        "Three are on record as being against quad play. But then so were O2"

        O2 had no choice in the matter, Both Telefonica & Liberty need the money and no one wanted to buy either (that would get through the regulators). This deal works out much better for VM than O2. TV packages are becoming dated with many people streaming from 2 + providers already (i have Netflix, Amazon, AppleTV & now Disney+, any others can FO!!!!) Who wants cables going in every room when the TV can just stream on demand from the web?

        in a few years we won't even bother with home wifi as the 5G spec will allow our devices to just connect to the mobile phone network on our account and just work so no need for home wifi.

    3. Austin Montego

      Re: Logical Next Move in the "comms+pay tv" "market"

      EE and now this VM/O2 merger have shown that two international firms can come together to create a single UK provider.

      Comcast have only just bought Sky, though, so I doubt they're in any mood to further complicate their investment. And Vodafone seem unlikely to offload their operations on their home turf.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cellnet

    "The combined provider will sell fixed-line, mobile, and paid television services, and would directly challenge the dominance of BT in the UK."

    Bet BT are maybe regretting getting rid of BT Cellnet/O2 now.

    So many other providers use O2 - Tesco for example. That's a lot of instant customers for VM.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Cellnet

      Bet BT are maybe regretting getting rid of BT Cellnet/O2 now...

      You missed the bit where they own EE.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cellnet

        And the cost of owning EE was to sell part of themselves to Deutsch Telekom. Splitting off O2 was a classic piece of BT top manglement short-sightedness. I suppose, however, they disliked that business as much as those who worked there disliked them.

    2. Austin Montego

      Re: Cellnet

      Ditching Cellnet was a long term solution to a mid-term debt problem. The good news for BT, though, is that EE has way more 4G spectrum than O2. The bad news is that O2 has a bit more 5G spectrum than EE.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cellnet

        Ditching Cellnet was a long short term solution to a mid-term debt problem.

        FTFY

    3. MadAsHell

      Re: Cellnet

      BT *always* regretted selling off Cellnet - they knew that it was a mistake at the time, but they were forced into it by a desperate need for cash to address their debt mountain, and it was the only thing that they could sell that was worth enough to make a difference.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I wonder if there are any old BT hands still around in O2. If so there'll be a touch of schadenfreude around the virtual office today.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are indeed, though they've been whittled down over the years - legacy benefits are expensive.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Any from the really old days in Eversholt St.?

  9. IGotOut Silver badge

    And the losers are...

    the customers.

    This has to be paid for after all.

    1. Mike Richards

      Re: And the losers are...

      Nice of Virgin to bring all their debt to the party.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: And the losers are...

        How much debt does Liberty Global have? Lots and lots and lots I'll bet.

        Can they service it without [cough][cough] aquiring a lot of nice juicy assets as almost zero cost? Then they can sell those nice juicy assets to service the debt.

      2. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: And the losers are...

        The thing about debt is that taxes are paid after costs like debt etc. More debt, less taxes. If you have another business that is profitable and pays a lot of tax, you can offset some that tax and cost of the new company by paying off that debt to your offshore services company and paying far less tax to the UK. Its a Win Win in the corporate world. Branson is a master at it (not saying he's involved at all here).

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    The roundabout

    A while back Telefonica offloaded its cable operations in Germany to Liberty Global which, in turn offloaded them to Vodafone. Only a matter of time before this happens in the UK?

  11. macjules Silver badge
    Coat

    Think about the poor sponsors

    What will the O2 now be known as?

    Perhaps the group could merge with British Airways and then it might be called the "O2 BA Virgin"

    1. John Miles

      Re: What will the O2 now be known as?

      I'd suggest prefixing 02 with a S - to give SO2 aka sulphur dioxide

    2. 6491wm

      Re: Think about the poor sponsors

      the new company could be known as V2

      1. vogon00

        Re: Think about the poor sponsors

        Especially given the reason for the bank holiday moving to Friday here in Blighty.

        I suppose 'A4' would be an option also.

  12. Cederic Silver badge

    Virgin Mobile moving off EE

    Well, that's a bit of a bugger for this deal then:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/11/06/virgin_and_vodafone_announce_mvno/

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nationwide provision of 5G and gigabit "full-fibre" broadband

    and if you wondered WTF you need 5G and 1Gb "full fibre" broadband (up to), well, shit, why should reasonable/awkward questions stand in the pathway of unstoppable progress, that's why! And I'll give you perfectly good REASONS why: "other countries mumblemumble so we can't lag behind" / "mass-surveillance in real-time" (for those tinfoil hats replace "surveillance" with "potential virus outbreak contagion"), and let's not forget "3D, 5-hr long cat porn videos / linux installations downloaded IN 3 SECONDS!". Did I mention "convergence & cost optimisation", aka mass redundancies for our ex-valuable employees, we wish them all the best in their new employment career elsewhere, etc.?

  14. Chad H.

    Oh gawd, I hope not. When I worked there senior O2 management struck me as being like ADHD children. Desperate not to be running a telco they’d hatch all sorts of crazy schemes they’d show hyperactive levels of interest in, only for the attention deficit to swiftly kick in and the once darling idea that shaped the future of the business forgotten after mere weeks.

    The O2 Board is very much the Peter principle in action. They’re fortunate to be on top of a business that basically runs itself, because if they had to do it, it would simply fail.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn

    Virgin has past from. O2 has form too.

    Wake me up when the next price rise kicks in., to pay for the corporate shenanigans. High value mergers are never in the Customer's interest. Eventuallyy, they will have to finance it by raising prices for the illusionary 5G/6G or whatever G utopia their PR stuntmen will blitz us with. It will still not wipe my bottom or make mty morning cuppa.

  16. Zola
    FAIL

    Been There?

    It's funny how in 2013 the bean counters at Telefonica thought that selling their UK fixed line broadband business (aka Be Unlimited) to Sky for £180 million was such a good idea.

    The O2/Be ADSL2+ service was great, particularly if you were an O2 subscriber as you received a discount - decent download speed, Annex M (2.5Mbps upload), great reliability, excellent customer support (Be Unlimited handled the service and support).

    Then it was sold to Sky for chump change, Annex M ended immediately, the speeds dropped overnight and reliability became a repeating issue. They employed the Be Unlimited customer support people but you could tell from talking to them that they knew it was now a total shit show.

    Eventually I could stand it now more and moved broadband (and O2 mobile) to BT who were better than Sky, but not as good as Be There. Funnily enough I'm now with Hyperoptic 1Gbps which is run by old Be Unlimited people, so I've come full circle (and 3 for mobile). Both have been excellent.

    Anyway that was the end of the O2 triple play, for chump change. And now they're having to get into bed with Virgin Media, which has a very limited network (if you're not covered by Virgin already, you never will be) which limits their future potential. With the debt that both Telfonica and Liberty Global have it's difficult to see where the investment will come from.

    Oh what could have been for O2, if Telefonica weren't such utter fsckwits. I really don't see this merger ending well, assuming it goes ahead at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Been There?

      Went through the same thought process. Still, got a year's worth of free Sky out of it before switching.

      I suspect we interacted on the old Be forums at some point.

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Been There?

      I used to use Be too, they were great.

      I'm on the receiving end of another Liberty Global company's shenanigans at the moment, my TV box is dead and they won't give me another without signing up to a new deal which is more expensive and with a minimum term. It is cheaper for me to keep the dead box and subscribe to a TVoIP service than take the other deal...

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